The bar at The Whiskey Kitchen in Augusta. Photos by Angie Bryan

I discovered The Whiskey Kitchen by accident – a friend and I had traveled to Augusta to check out a completely different place, and happened to spot The Whiskey Kitchen while we were looking for parking. We abandoned our original plans and headed there instead, and we regret nothing except not having discovered this gem of a place (which opened in 2021) sooner.

Our experience that night consisted of one positive surprise after another. Saddles greeting us at the entrance? Check. Full-on Western saloon décor, done in a way that felt relaxed and comfortable without being cheesy? Check. An entire page of creative cocktails ranging from $10 to $12? Check.

But all of the above doesn’t guarantee a good experience – we needed to taste some cocktails. My drinking companion went with the $12 Ghosted, a mixture of pineapple juice, watermelon liqueur and ghost pepper tequila. As our friendly server predicted, the pineapple and watermelon were the perfect counterpart to the spicy tequila. I went in a completely different direction, opting for the $11 Skrewball White Russian (a White Russian in which you replace the vodka with Skrewball, a peanut butter-flavored whiskey that I adore). We loved both drinks and could not decide which one was better.

The Ghosted and Skrewball White Russian cocktails from The Whiskey Kitchen.

Another menu highlight was the seven different flights. With 1-ounce pours on the whiskey flights, the options included the $22 “High Jack” (don’t talk about it while on an airplane) containing Jack Daniel’s No. 7, Jack Bonded, Jack Single Barrel and Gentleman Jack; the $27 small batch (Jefferson’s Reserve, Four Roses, Calumet and Daviess County); $26 rye (Whistle Pig 10 Year, Wild Turkey, Bulleit 95 and Sazerac); a $28 Old Forester (1870, 1897, 1910 and 1920); the $24 Wild Turkey (101, 101 Rye, Rare Breed and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel); the $24 Bulleit (rye, bourbon, 10 year, and single barrel), and a $16 flight of four different flavors of margaritas or Tito’s and lemonade.

Wine and beer drinkers have options, too, with seven different wines by the glass ranging from $7 to $11 (one sparkling, one rose, two whites and two reds, plus a house red and a house white). There are eight draft beers ranging from $4 to $9 and 15 options in bottles or cans ($4 to $7).

Western decor is part of the charm of The Whiskey Kitchen.

Service was fast and the food menu looked great, so we also ordered dinner. I went with the $15 ground beef nachos, which were easily enough for two to three people (and no, I did not finish them on my own) and had both melted beer cheese sauce and shredded cheese on them. Need I say more? My friend chose the $14 bourbon-braised pork sandwich, which came with an enormous side (enough for two people) of phenomenal macaroni and cheese (you know, in case we hadn’t already had enough cheese from the nachos). Another winner. The menu focused heavily on comfort food, but also had multiple delicious-sounding salad options to which you could add grilled chicken or shrimp if you preferred something healthier.

As we were getting ready to pay and head back to Portland, we noticed something we had somehow missed when we sat down – an entire page of dessert cocktails! Six were $7 specialty shots: cinnamon toast, root beer float, very berry, apple crisp, upside-down pineapple and almond cream. I’d like a flight of those, please. The regular-sized dessert cocktails, for $13-$14, all sounded amazing: PB&J, peanut butter cake, s’mores, peach cheesecake, triple chocolate brownie, blueberry delight and funfetti. How are you supposed to choose?

Clearly, I’m going to have to start spending more time in Augusta.

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

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