Even before you walk through the door of Vessel and Vine, located in an old house, you can feel the love and attention that owner and bartender Nikaline Iacono has poured into every detail. Plants decorate the outside, which leads into a retail area selling wine, beer and vintage glassware. There’s not much that can delay my approach to the bar in a new venue, but the barware collection did. The prices were reasonable, and I’m still filled with happiness every time I use the miniature vintage ice crusher that I got there.
When I finally tore myself away from the glassware and walked into the bar area, I wanted to stop and soak in the décor. From the lighting to the utensils, every element has been carefully curated to fit the eclectic and welcoming vibe, and the overall effect is splendid – the kind of place where you want to be a regular as soon as you sit down.
The menu (both food and drink) changes constantly, so the items mentioned here might not be available if you visit. They should, however, give an idea of the original, foraging-based approach followed by Iacono and chef Matt DeFio. My drinking companion ordered The Blues Run The Game ($10), a blueberry gin and amaro drink that was sour but not in a vinegary way. I went with The 3-Tailed Lion ($12), a rum-based concoction that smelled like spiced apples. It was clear that a lot of consideration had gone into the delicate balance of ingredients in both cocktails; the same type of effort had been put into the small but unusual wine list.
The most fun part of the menu was the “golden ratio” section, offering patrons the chance to
create their own cocktails by selecting one item from each of three categories (booze, amaro/aperitif and vermouth/other). The amaro selection covers fruity, lighter, smokier and traditional, so don’t try to whine to me that you can’t find something you like.
The small plates food menu is equally original. I ordered the spread of the day, which happened to be a $5 pesto with bread; my
friend ordered the $10 smoked trout salad. The presentation was beautiful, but the dishes might be a bit too foodie/artsy for some preferences. If that’s you, never fear – there’s also the option to create your own meat and cheese platters with a good selection of Maine cheeses.
The bar stools were a bit rickety, so we sat at the regular tables, but I was pleased to see a few purse hooks under the bar. Another bonus? Vessel and Vine offers classes in cocktail construction, pasta making and wine. Sold.
Vessel and Vine
WHERE: 4 Pleasant St., Brunswick
PHONE: (207) 721-3000
WEBSITE: On Facebook
HOURS: 2-10 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday
AMENITIES: Retail store featuring a lovely vintage glassware section.
BOTTOM LINE: Charming, eclectic space where you can feel the true passion of the owner. Playful environment that encourages customers to experiment with new flavors and offers several items not readily found elsewhere. Perfect place for a drink the next time you’re heading to Brunswick for a dinner at Tao Yuan or for a theater performance.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Not really. There’s a ramp, but you’d still have to make it over a lip to get in. If you succeed, you could easily maneuver around the retail section and in the bar, but the bathroom is not wheelchair accessible.