There are many options for comfortable seating at Ironside, the new bar in the lobby of the Portland Regency. Photo by Angie Bryan

I love a good hotel bar, so I was delighted to hear that Portland’s Regency Hotel – already home to one of my favorite watering holes, The Armory – had opened a brand-new bar as part of the hotel’s lobby renovation.

As you may know, the Regency used to be an actual armory, hence the name of its other bar. The armory was built in 1895, which is why the Regency’s restaurant is called Eighteen95. The armory supplied the U.S.S. Constitution, whose nickname was Old Ironsides, so the name of the new bar is simply Ironside.

Walking into Ironside is like entering a spacious living room with multiple options for comfortable seating. There are only four seats at the actual bar, which I was thrilled to see had purse hooks underneath, but plenty of room for larger groups elsewhere in the bar.

Ironside is a whiskey bar, and food and beverage director Michael Silver carefully curated the selection of around 150 highly-sought-after whiskeys, making sure that there were only two or three options that overlapped with The Armory’s whiskey menu. Silver is partial to tequila (how could he not be, given his last name?), so there are also a few tequilas on the menu, and – recognizing that some people are not whiskey fans – some of their cocktails are not whiskey-based. In addition, Ironside sells four wines by the glass for $13-$17.

Ironside’s Boulvardier is made with Basil Hayden dark rye. Photo by Angie Bryan

Speaking of cocktails, Ironside has eight $13 options, primarily classics, including an Old Fashioned (albeit a smoked maple one), a Negroni, a Vesper and a Manhattan. I was also pleased to see one of my favorite Mexican cocktails, the Paloma, on the menu. I decided to go with a different favorite of mine, the Boulvardier (also known as the Boulevardier), a Negroni (equal parts of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth) made with bourbon or rye instead of gin. Ironside’s Boulvardier uses Basil Hayden dark rye, and the result is magnificent, especially when served in such gorgeous glassware.

My drinking companion ordered a High West double rye, and we settled in to chat with Silver and bartender/bourbon steward Liz Pelletier. Silver, who came to the Regency from California, also lived in Utah for a while, where he became a fan of High West, a ski-in gastro-distillery in Park City. He also particularly enjoys Colonel E.H. Taylor bourbon out of Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky. “I have a lot of respect for the Colonel,” chimed in Pelletier.

Speaking of Buffalo Trace, one of Ironside’s prize possessions is a show-stopping bottle of its Double Eagle Very Rare 20-year-old bourbon, one of only three bottles in Maine. The bottle has a Baccarat crystal eagle inside it and another as the stopper. It costs $400 an ounce, so it’s not surprising that Ironside has sold it only once. The purchase involved a husband-and-wife discussion over whether or not to buy it; the husband won.

Most Ironside customers, however, are looking for something more affordable and will relish thumbing through the multi-page menu of Scotch, Irish, Canadian, Japanese, Taiwanese and American whiskeys. For people who can’t decide, Ironside offers a $20 Rocky Mountain High flight, a $32 Scotch flight, a $38 Tour of Japan flight, a $45 Art of the Blend flight and a $66 Bucket List flight featuring Kentucky Owl rye, Van Winkle special reserve, Elijah Craig single barrel, and Angel’s Envy 2020 cask strength bourbon.

Many customers use Ironside as either a pre- or post-dinner stop, but the bar does have a small food menu with four small plate options under $15 and six dessert options under $9. Operating hours for the bar, which opened in October, were 4-9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday as of last week but may change alongside pandemic restrictions, so check the latest by calling the hotel at 207-774-4200.

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

The bountiful selection of whiskey at Ironside. Photo by Angie Bryan

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