Keg and Kraken on Congress Street in Portland. Photos by Angie Bryan

I love both Thai food and tiki cocktails, so when I heard that a new place specializing in both had opened about a year ago on Congress Street, I knew I had to check it out. Despite it being an easy walk from my apartment, it somehow took me until recently to make it over there to see for myself. I’m kicking myself for not having discovered it sooner.

Despite its emphasis on tiki cocktails, Keg and Kraken isn’t really a bar. Technically, there are seven seats at the bar/counter, but they’re much more like seats at a sushi bar (which, in its defense, it actually is) than at a cocktail bar. Most of the space is regular restaurant tables, so that’s where my three drinking companions and I sat. We all remarked on how nice the atmosphere was and how comfortable we felt right from the beginning.

The cocktail menu did not disappoint, offering 18 specialty drinks, including a $20 scorpion bowl, a $17 Mai Tai bowl, and the $23 Missionary Downfall (dark rum, peach liqueur, fresh pineapple, lime juice, demerara syrup and fresh mint, served in a hollowed-out whole pineapple). As tempted as I think we all were by that last option in particular, we ended up going with a $13 raspberry margarita (using Chambord for the raspberry flavoring), a $12 mango martini (containing both mango vodka and mango syrup in addition to Cointreau and lime juice), a $13 Zombie (the classic tiki cocktail made with dark rum, lime juice, passionfruit puree, pineapple juice, hibiscus, grenadine and orgeat syrup), and a $13 Painkiller (another classic tiki cocktail, made with dark rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, coconut milk, cinnamon and nutmeg).

Service was fast and friendly, two of my favorite characteristics, especially when it comes to ordering cocktails. Each of the cocktails arrived in a different type of glass (as they should, but aren’t always) and featured some sort of matching garnish.

From left, the mango martini, Painkiller, Zombie and raspberry margarita at Keg and Kraken.

Our least favorite was the raspberry margarita, which we found extremely syrupy, so much so that we could not taste either the tequila or the lime – sort of a problem when you’ve ordered a margarita. That said, I’m a Texan who is snobby about margaritas, and why the heck did we order a margarita at a Thai restaurant specializing in tiki cocktails in the first place? I’m giving a pass on that one.

The Painkiller had a bit too much nutmeg in it for our taste, but I could happily go the rest of my life without having nutmeg again, so judge for yourself. Our second-favorite cocktail was the mango martini, which (in a good way) was more tart than sweet, sort of like me. The unanimous crowd pleaser, however, was the perfectly-balanced Zombie, which was packed with mind-blowing flavor in every sip.

Other options that we didn’t get a chance to taste during our visit included a $13 Planter’s Punch, a $13 Lion’s Tail (a classic Prohibition cocktail containing bourbon, lime juice, demerara syrup and allspice), a $12 lychee martini, a $12 ginger pear martini, a $12 cucumber tini, and more.

Word on the street is that a yuzu cocktail called Purple Rain was recently added to the menu. I may have to go check that out when my brother, a huge Prince fan, next comes to visit. Or perhaps I should go before he gets here for quality assurance purposes.

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