The Top of the East, atop the Westin Harborview Hotel in Portland, was recently renovated. Photos by Angie Bryan

Ever since moving to Maine in 2018, I’ve had a lot of houseguests. One of my favorite places to take them has traditionally been Top of the East, the spacious bar with the panoramic views of Portland, located at the top of the Westin Hotel. I used to be confused about why it wasn’t called Top of the West, but I learned the name is a holdover from the hotel’s former name, the Eastland.

Top of the East reopened in September after a multimonth renovation. I recently stopped by to check out the new look (along with the new cocktail menu, of course), and could not believe how different it was. It markets itself as “lovingly redesigned to evoke a feeling of days gone by,” and you feel that immediately when you exit the elevator and see the large neon sign featuring the city skyline, complete with one of Portland’s stunning sunsets. As you round the corner and head into the bar, you get the sense that it is even more spacious than it used to be and somehow also has more seating.

Seating options are varied and extremely comfortable. In fact, “comfortable luxury” is how members of my party agreed we would describe the atmosphere to others. The barstools at the main bar are wooden with footrests, backs and leather cushions, and there are outlets (though no purse hooks) underneath the bar.  We opted to sit at one of the curved cushioned benches with a high-top table.

The setting calls out for craft cocktails, so I was disappointed to see that the cocktail menu features only four such drinks, one of which was more of a dessert cocktail. We ordered each of the remaining three: the $16 La Jefa, the $20 Call Me Old Fashioned, and the $16 City Key.

Call Me Old Fashioned, City Key and La Jefa cocktails at Top of the East.

The La Jefa (Ilegal Mezcal Joven, raspberry puree, fresh lime and red bell pepper juice) looked beautiful, but the Mezcal was overpowering. I think that cocktail has the potential to be amazing with a few tweaks, though.

The Call Me Old Fashioned (Elijah Craig 12-year bourbon, Angostura bitters, an orange vanilla reduction, and Boston Bittahs a blend of chamomile and citrus) met expectations with a pleasantly subtle undertone of orange vanilla.


The City Key (McQueen and the Violet Fog gin, violette liqueur, a lavender reduction and fresh lemon) was the crowd favorite, both in terms of its gorgeous presentation (I mean, it’s hard for a purple cocktail not to look pretty) and – more importantly – its perfectly layered flavors. If I were to go back, that’s the one I would order again.

The menu also offered three $12 low ABV cocktails and three $10 mocktails. In the low ABV category, I’d love to try the Von Teese (St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, Combier orange liqueur, pamplemousse – aka grapefruit – liqueur and cucumber tonic). For mocktails, I’d go with the Cucumber Collins (Lyre’s Italian orange nonalcoholic spirit, a cucumber reduction, fresh lime and club soda).

The primary focus of the cocktail menu, however, was the “Proper Gin & Tonic,” in which you could choose from three gins (Bimini from Biddeford, Empress 1908 from Victoria, British Columbia, and Hendricks from Glasgow, Scotland) and four tonics (elderflower, citrus, grapefruit and Indian, the spicy option). That sounded fine until I saw the price: $20.

Though they may be bigger than a typical cocktail (the ones I saw looked like mostly ice), I would never pay that much for a two-ingredient mixed drink that anybody could make at home – even with a panoramic view.

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

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