The bar at The Garrison in Yarmouth takes reservations and walk-ins. Photo by Alexandra Hall

In the heart of sleepy Yarmouth, down a street so hushed that the loudest noise is the rush of the Royal River and tucked into the first floor of the historic Sparhawk Mill, sits one of New England’s most quietly cool restaurants. The Garrison has earned plenty of accolades for chef/owner Christian Hayes’s global-meets-local, edgy-yet-fancy fare. Less acknowledged, though, is that its craft cocktail program is worth exploring in its own right.

The bar’s dominance is announced the minute you walk in; the black slate bar is the modish space’s focal point. Beneath the high ceiling’s industrial, exposed pipes and ducts – all of it painted a moody dark gray – the place is lined in minimalist white brick walls and abstract paintings by local artist Jenny Prinn, punctuated with simple, modern lighting fixtures. When my companion and I install ourselves at the sleek, wide bar early on a Friday night (dinner reservations are taken for the bar, but walk-ins are welcome whenever there’s space), there’s little doubt that we’re at the center of the action.

That action, though, is anything but a scene – at least not in the pretentious foodie sense. No one’s here to check their visit off a bucket list, they’re relaxing and taking in the back bar’s tall built-in shelves; easing into the cushy, burnished leather barstools; and reading the chalkboards on the wall that dispense the wisdom of everyone from Biggie to the late Anthony Bourdain. The latter is an unofficial patron saint of the establishment; his chalkboard quote celebrates the people of Maine and is never taken down, while original art depicting him graces the hallway to the restrooms.

Like both Hayes’ food and Bourdain, the cocktails are equal parts gritty, daring and elegant. They’re full of big and adventurous flavors and are deceptively complex. Bar manager and Falmouth native Averil Burner, who cut her teeth working at Hot Suppa and David’s Restaurant, spends hours painstakingly making ingredients like gochujang honey and Fresno pepper syrup. She tells me later via phone that she’s a huge Negroni fan, and always offers a special version of the classic. I order the rendition on offer ($14): A mix of Plymouth Gin, Campari, and Sfumato rabarbaro – a bitter made of herbs and rhubarb, with a strong hit of smoky flavor. Its effect is bittersweet and refreshing. Before I know it, my glass is empty.

Life on Mars, made with gochujang honey, fresh pineapple and lime juices, Manzanilla, Espolon Reposado tequila and Vida Mezcal, is The Garrison’s most frequently ordered cocktail. Photo by Alexandra Hall

The most-ordered concoction on the menu is Life On Mars ($14), a vehicle for the aforementioned gochujang honey (“Christian uses gochujang in several dishes,” advises Burner. “So it’s a natural pairing with those.”) Also making an appearance: fresh pineapple and lime juices, Manzanilla, Espolon Reposado tequila and Vida Mezcal. The first sip delivers the thwack of tequila, plus the sweetness from both the agave and the fruits, and then mellows with the salty dryness of the Manzanilla, which is akin to a fino sherry.

“I try to make every drink approachable, but with one ingredient people haven’t heard of yet,” says Burner. “I don’t want anyone to feel browbeaten by a cocktail menu. But it’s also fun to introduce new flavors and change people’s perception a little bit.”


Though cocktails capture the spotlight, the tightly focused wine list is equally designed with the food menu in mind, and it includes a commendable number of mid-priced bottles from the globe’s major winemaking areas, plus a few trending outliers like Slovenia. “Each wine by the glass corresponds with a dish on the menu,” explains Burner.

Available beers come via draft or cans, mostly hail from nearby, and run the gamut of styles. That means everything from Terrarium IPA by Portland’s Bunker Brewing and Gunner’s Daughter Milk Stout by Mast Landing to Miller High Life – the last one, ever so nonchalantly slipped between the craft brews, onto the menu as Hayes’s personal favorite.

And hey, why not? After all, to paraphrase Bourdain, the essence of cool is not trying too hard.

Alexandra Hall is a longtime New England lifestyle writer who lives in Maine.

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