Tropical notes in Lobster Reef wine are reflected in the Mango Tango cocktail from Ken’s Place, making it a good match with a lobster roll from the Scarborough seafood joint. Photo courtesy of Ken’s Place

Every year there’s a fierce debate over which place in Maine sells the best lobster roll, but this year I decided to raise the – wait for it – bar. In order to determine which cocktail pairs best with lobster rolls, I turned to seven establishments that sell both. I received seven almost completely different responses. I guess the only way to resolve the issue is for you to spend the rest of your summer comparing them.

Vodka was by far the most popular spirit, playing a starring role in three of the cocktails and sharing duties with rum in a fourth. Gin was the spirit selected for two drinks, and tequila and mezcal fueled the other.

Luke’s Lobster pairs its Lemon of Pink cocktail with a lobster roll. Photo courtesy of Luke’s Lobster

The only two drinks that were even remotely similar were both lemonade-based. Luke’s Lobster recommends its $10 Lemon of Pink, which is made by using an immersion circulator (aka sous vide) to infuse Ice Pik vodka with organic sour cherries. The cherries are then strained out, and two parts cherry vodka mixture are mixed with one part fresh lemon juice and one part simple syrup. Beverage Director Kai Parrott-Wolfe invented the Lemon of Pink during the coronavirus shutdown with the goal of creating a to-go cocktail that was not only both sophisticated and straightforward, but also light and refreshing to complement Luke’s lobster rolls the way a good white wine does.  Still available to go or on site, the Lemon of Pink is currently Luke’s most popular cocktail.

The other lemonade-based cocktail is from The Bait Shed in Scarborough. The most local cocktail of the group, it combines Cold River blueberry vodka (distilled in Maine) with The Bait Shed’s house pink lemonade to create the $11 Jones Creek Lemonade.

Another Scarborough contender, Ken’s Place, took a completely different approach. Bar manager Jen Skinsacos’ go-to combination with a lobster roll is a buttery Chardonnay, but she’s also a big fan of Lobster Reef (how could she not be?), a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Lobster Reef is light and crisp with notes of passion fruit, a tropical vibe that inspired her to pair Ken’s refreshing $9 Mango Tango (mango vodka, coconut rum, pineapple juice and cranberry juice) with its lobster roll.

The other vodka-based cocktail pairing comes from The Porthole, which pairs its lobster roll with its impressive Porthole Bloody Mary: vodka, house Bloody Mary mix, lemon, lime, olive, pepperoncini, bacon and shrimp. The price ranges from $8 to $12 depending on whether you get it with the bacon and/or shrimp.

Highroller Lobster Co. pairs its lobster roll with its Copper Kettle cocktail, made with watermelon juice and gin. Photo courtesy of Highroller Lobster co.

Moving on to the gin-based pairings, The Highroller Lobster Co. beverage director Colin Mulcunry recommends The Copper Kettle, a $10 cocktail that is light and refreshing and does not overpower the lobster roll. Combine five parts fresh watermelon juice, ½ part Natalie’s Lime Juice, ½ part Natalie’s Lemon Juice, one part simple syrup, two parts Bombay Sapphire gin, and two to three basil leaves in a blender, then strain. Serve on ice and garnish with fresh basil.

The other gin option is found at DiMillo’s, where beverage director Chelsea DiMillo proposes its $13 Hardshore Gimlet: 2½ ounces locally-distilled Hardshore gin, 1 ounce fresh lime juice and ½ ounce simple syrup. The light and refreshing citrus and gin are designed to cut the richness in the lobster roll.

Our final contender takes a completely different approach. Eventide bar manager Ryan Smith pairs its lobster roll with a $10 citrusy, spicy and smoky Hazehound: 1½ ounces tequila, ¾ ounce mezcal, ½ ounce lime juice, ½ ounce honey, and 1 ounce grapefruit juice.

Like I said, you’re going to have to judge for yourself. Let’s roll!

Angie Bryan is a former diplomat who is enjoying getting acquainted with her new home in Portland, one cocktail at a time.

Eventide recommends pairing its unique lobster roll with its Hazehound cocktail. Photo courtesy of Eventide

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