The Fuzzy Slippers and Blueberry Mule at Alto Terrace Bar + Kitchen. Photos by Angie Bryan

Walking down Hancock Street by Shipyard Brewing, you’d never guess that one of the buildings is home to an incredible outdoor terrace. Frankly, you’d be hard pressed to realize that the new Cambria Hotel is a hotel and not an apartment or condo building. All it says outside is “CAMBRIA,” and when you walk in, you see only a few seats and an elevator bank.

Only when you take one of those elevators to the fourth floor do you find a check-in desk, as well as an exceptionally large and inviting indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant.

If it had been summer, my drinking companion and I would have headed straight outside to the terrace, one of the best new outdoor spaces in Portland. Seeing as how it was February, however, we sat at the bar, where we were delighted to find purse hooks underneath.

I don’t expect every hotel bar to have an original cocktail list, but Alto does. Created by the Cambria Hotel’s food and beverage manager, Mike Savona, who along with his husband, Ryan Deskins, owns Sagamore Hill, the drinks menu features eight signature cocktails, each $15.

One is a standard margarita and one (the Monument Square) is a twist on a Cosmopolitan (using a spiced cranberry simple syrup instead of cranberry juice and adding Angostura bitters), but the other six are more original. They include the Brooklyn North (gin, blueberry jalapeno shrub, lime, Peychaud’s bitters and seltzer), the Clover Club (gin, lemon, dry vermouth, raspberry syrup and aquafaba, the water in which chickpeas have been cooked, a common substitute for egg white in cocktails), the Cost of Honesty (rum, bourbon, honey simple syrup, cinnamon simple syrup, and orange bitters), and the Fool’s Treasure (bourbon, Limoncello, lemon, simple syrup and sage).

The indoor area of Alto Terrace Bar + Kitchen inside the Cambia Hotel in Portland.

It was hard to decide what to order, and my friend and I ended up going in completely different directions. She went with the Maine Blueberry Mule, featuring a house-made blueberry puree, while I (as is often the case when I am at home) was unable to resist the lure of the Fuzzy Slippers: gin, Amaro Montenegro, crème de cacao, cinnamon simple syrup, cream, and chocolate bitters. Hers was good, but mine was amazing. It was perfectly balanced and not too heavy or cloyingly sweet. The star ingredient was the cinnamon simple syrup, also made in house – I may have to try making some of that myself.

The barstools were comfortable, the music and the lighting were at a decent volume, and the service was fast. My friend and I were a little peckish, so we ordered a Scotch egg off Alto’s happy hour menu. Made with hot Italian sausage and served with a phenomenal tangerine mostarda and frizzled leeks, the Scotch egg is normally $15 but is $7 during happy hour, which is 5-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. It was the perfect, as we deemed it, “happetizer.”

Alto’s outdoor terrace is sure to be a hot spot in the summer.

Other $7 happetizer options include broccoli rabe crostini, winter squash flatbread, fries, a loaded potato croquette, and chili maple chicken skewers. Happy hour drink specials include a good selection of well drinks, domestic bottles and draft beers, all for $5. Alto’s regular bar menu has 12 wines by the glass (one sparkling, one rose, five whites and five reds), ranging from $7-$15, with six of the options under $10. Not surprisingly, given that the Cambria is the “brewtel” dreamed up by Shipyard founder Fred Forsley, most of their beers on tap come from Shipyard.

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

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