Rachel MacArthur, lead bartender at Three of Strong Spirits in Portland, is on a mission – a mission to changes people’s minds about rum.

When most people think of rum, she said, they are flooded with memories of sugary, frozen drinks they indulged in on vacation in warm places (pina colada, anyone?), or the rum-and-Cokes that gave them hangovers in college.

“One of the things we say around the distillery all the time is that we are in rum rehabilitation,” she said. “People have this very entrenched bias against rum.”

MacArthur will be demonstrating other ways to enjoy rum, such as an Old Fashioned made with rum instead of whiskey, at an event during this year’s Harbor on the Harbor festival, which runs from Nov. 3-6.

The festival, which once drew people from all over the country for such popular events as the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year competition, was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic. It’s back this year, shorter and later in the season, a hybrid of live and virtual events. Gillian Britt, one of the producers of the festival, said each event is limited to 250 people, and festivalgoers will be required to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Ticket sales so far have been steady.

“Considering that we know that a lot of people wait until the very last minute and the events are smaller this year, we definitely anticipate selling out in advance,” Britt said.


“Meet Your Maker” will showcase a dozen members of the Maine Distillers Guild. A $60 ticket buys tastes of Maine-made gin, vodka, bourbon, rum and other spirits. Pemberton’s Gourmet Foods will be serving chips and salsas, pasta marinara, mini hot fudge sundaes and other treats, Britt said.

Maine OysterFest, one of the main events of this year’s Harvest on the Harbor, will feature two dozen oyster farms. Photo courtesy of Harvest on the Harbor

The other big featured event is Maine OysterFest, where two dozen oyster farms will shuck samples during two separate sessions. Britt believes this may set a record for the largest number of Maine oyster farms at a single event. Allagash Brewing Co. and Austin Street Brewer will bring the beer, and wine drinkers will be served Los Dos Cava sparkling wine.

Both events will be held at O’Maine Studios, 54 Danforth St., Portland.

“We’re going to open the garage bays and make sure there’s plenty of air flow,” Britt said. “We’re really spreading things out. We’re very conscious of the fact that we don’t want to create a situation that feels uncomfortably crowded. We want people to have space to move around and really enjoy themselves.”

The festival’s virtual events include a conversation with the authors of the Maine Bicentennial Community Cookbook on Nov. 3 and another Maine OysterFest experience on Nov. 5, one that comes with oysters and an online shucking class. Participants in the oyster event will order oysters from three farms, and get a shucking knife, gloves and a travel cooler ahead of the event. The cost depends on how many oysters you order and whether you pick them up yourself or have them delivered.

The festival will also have a couple of so-called “fringe events,” which just means that they are being held somewhere other than O’Maine Studios. At “Maine Craft Distilling Presents One Shaken, One Stirred,” ticket holders ($70) will learn how to make two cocktails, enjoy snacks and take a tour of the distillery in Portland.


The Palmetto, one of the cocktails you can learn to make at Three of Strong Spirits during Harvest on the Harbor. Photo courtesy of Three of Strong Spirits

MacArthur will host “Beyond the Pina Colada” ($35) at Three of Strong Spirits. She’ll talk about ways to use rum that don’t include lots of sugar and tiny umbrellas – for example, an Old Fashioned made with the distillery’s ‘Chando 12 rum.

“‘Chando is our 12-year Colombian rum, and we always call it our gateway rum for whiskey drinkers,” MacArthur said. The rum Old Fashioned is a bartender’s favorite. It’s a way of getting in with a snooty bartender too – if you order a rum Old Fashioned, people will be, like, respect.”

MacArthur will demonstrate how to make a Palmetto – a three-ingredient, stirred cocktail that is reminiscent of a Manhattan – as well as something tiki-ish, such as Three of Strong Spirits’ version of a Painkiller, made with fresh orange juice, unsweetened coconut cream, pineapple juice and rum.

“That still gives you that really great tropical escape kind of vibe without being a sugar bomb and without covering up the taste of the rum,” MacArthur said.


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