Bar Guide: Tropical Cocktails Come in All Sizes at Paper Tiger
You know how sometimes you can tell you’re going to have a great time somewhere as soon as you walk through the door? That’s exactly what happened when my drinking buddy and I walked into Paper Tiger, the island-style bar that opened in March in the Old Port spot once occupied by Maine’s Lobster Shack.
We walked past the large outdoor patio, filled with wooden picnic tables, and went inside, where the beautiful bar had even a veteran bartender like me gasping in appreciation. Gorgeous dark teal walls and vibrant tropical prints showcase shelves of liquor and decorative items. Backlit with blue lights, the shelves wrap around one corner and have Paper Tiger’s impressive collection of mismatched cocktail glasses (purchased from Goodwill!) hanging from the bottom. Customers have a choice of several booths, a concrete bar counter against a window, perfect for people-watching on Fore Street, or the bar itself, which includes comfortable bar stools with low backs and footrests , as well as hooks and purse catches underneath.
My friend and I sat at the bar, where co-owner Marcus Alcantara worked. We opened the menus, which are hidden in old children’s books (also from Goodwill), and started reading. The menu offers nine exotic house cocktails, including a weekly bartender cocktail and a rotating slushie, as well as six variations of classic island cocktails and three $8 mocktails. The day we visited, the $12 Bartender’s Weekly was the Mo’ Heat Mojito, a concoction of Thai bird chili rum, lemon, and cilantro.
My friend ordered the $12 Fort Gorgeous, which the menu describes as “elegantly fierce”: spicy blueberry bush and Hardshore gin mixed with cardamom, lemon and club soda. I went with the $11 Jungle Bird, a classic tiki cocktail usually made with rum, pineapple, Campari, lime, and simple syrup. Sadly the Jungle Bird disappeared from the menu shortly after our visit, a good sign that they are keeping things fresh and new, but too bad as it was phenomenal. Guess I’ll have to go back and try all the new additions to the menu. I’d start with the $13 Obscure Hemingway reference: Flora de Cana Rum with Grapefruit Liqueur and Amaro, described as “I felt cute, could have a strong influence on later 20th century fiction.”
Paper Tiger is definitely a place for cocktail lovers, but it also offers 10 wines by the glass (three reds, three whites, three sparkling and one rosé) ranging from $9 to $12, a full page of beers in cans and bottle ($3-$8). ), and four local beers on tap.
Food-wise, Paper Tiger offers both small-format and large-format options. I still think about how much I loved the huge $11 coconut chicken wings with Sambal, pineapple and cilantro.
Seeing the “family size” section of the menu, I assumed it would be large food portions or restaurant prices, but no – it was much better than that. It was full size cocktails sized for a group! Shut up, my beating liver. There’s a $45 Scorpion Bowl that serves four, a $45 Punch that serves four, and a $100 Paper Tiger Golden Punch made with real smoke and real fire that serves eight. They only do one Golden Punch per night, so once it’s been ordered, that’s it.
Paper Tiger may seem fancy, but it’s welcoming to more than just tiki lovers. “We have very experienced bartenders who can do anything,” Alcantara said. “Want a shot of cheap whiskey?” We have you.
Yes, Paper Tiger, you got me. See you next time.
Retired diplomat Angie Bryan writes about Maine’s cocktail bars while doing as many puns as her editor allows.
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