You know that feeling when you walk into a bar and instinctively know that you’re in for a wonderful experience? That’s what I hope for every time I visit a new (to me) establishment, and what happened when I walked into The Burleigh.

When you enter the charming Kennebunkport Inn, a Federal-style home built on the Kennebunk River in the late 1880s by coffee and tea merchant Burleigh S. Thompson, The Burleigh is on the left side. After passing through a cozy living-room-like seating area with a fireplace, you enter the bar area.

The decor consists of dark walls, dark wood, navy leather seating with silver upholstery studs, thoughtfully-placed mirrors and a navy leather banquette with throw pillows along the length of one of the walls. The wooden bar display area has lead-paneled glass in it, there are hooks under the bar, and the soft lighting made me appear far more attractive than I actually am. Music was playing softly and a rainbow might have appeared when I sat down on what was without question the most comfortable barstool I’ve ever sat on – and I’ve sat on a lot of barstools.

The Cinn City and the Blood Orange Negroni are among The Burleigh’s exceptional cocktails. Angie Bryan photo

My drinking companion and I had a hard time deciding which of the craft cocktails to try. I’m a huge Negroni fan, so I was unable to resist the call of the $14 Blood Orange Negroni. It did not disappoint, but the real star of the show was my friend’s $15 Cinn City, a spectacular combination of bourbon, a brown sugar cinnamon syrup and Fee Brothers molasses bitters. Basically, it’s the cocktail version of a Snickerdoodle. We then decided to split the $15 Go “Fig”ure (rye, sweet vermouth, fresh fig puree and orange bitters) – it was like biting into a juicy fig, but a spiked one. I’ve had fig martinis made with fig vodka, but the matching of fig with rye was new to me. Consider me a fan. We went back and forth over which drink was better – they both are at the top of my list of cocktails I’ve tried in 2021 (and again, that’s a lot of cocktails).

The barstools at The Burleigh are among the most comfortable you’ll find. Angie Bryan photo

The cocktail menu also listed a fall rum punch, a spicy orange pomegranate margarita, a drink called Perfect Pear (pear vodka, lime, cranberry and spicy agave), a blackcurrant mule, a blueberry Cosmo and a drink called Killer Bee (rosemary-infused gin, lemon, honey syrup and prosecco). Several of the spirits are from Batson River Brewing & Distilling, down the road in Kennebunk. There’s also a smaller menu of specialty mocktails ($9-$15), 10 beer choices ($5-$8), and a dozen wines by the glass, all $12 or $13. A few bar snacks such as spinach artichoke dip ($10), jumbo shrimp cocktail ($18), and three bean chili ($12) are also available.

This winter The Burleigh Bar Cart is offering a series of classes on how to make various classic drinks. Classes are on most Saturdays and Sundays through February from 3-4 p.m. for $25 per person, which covers not only the instruction, but also drink tastings and light snacks. Upcoming classes include Time Flies When You’re Having Rum (Dec. 18-19), Whiskey & Rye – A Relationship on the Rocks (Jan. 8-9), Spiked Coffee & Cocoa (Jan. 15-16), and more. Other winter-long specials include 15% off all bottles of wine on Wednesdays and all-day happy hour on Sundays.

The Burleigh might turn out to be your new winter happy place. It’s definitely one of mine.

Retired diplomat Angie Bryan writes about Maine’s cocktail bars while making as many puns as her editor allows.

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