Known for its “urban elixirs,” Sonder & Dram opened in downtown Lewiston a little less than a year ago on the ground level of the McGillicuddy building on the corner of Lisbon and Ash Street. It has a modern vibe, complete with funky light fixtures, and the backless cast iron barstools are surprisingly comfortable, thanks in part to the footrests.
My drinking companion and I were pleased to find an ample coat rack and under-bar purse hooks, and quickly realized that it was going to be really difficult to choose only two drinks to sample from the innovative $9-$14 cocktail menu created by bar manager (and one of the nine principals behind Sonder & Dram) Tom Ardia, who used to work at Marche Kitchen and Wine Bar (Lewiston), Orchid (Lewiston) and Chaval (Portland).
My friend ordered the Bourbon Renewal (who doesn’t love a good pun?), an easy-to-drink $11 mixture of bourbon, cassis, lemon, simple syrup and bitters. I went with the $14 Rivendell, a blend of gin, grapefruit shrub, honey, blossoms and fruit elixir, lemon and sparkling rose, elevated by the bartender spritzing the cocktail (not just the glass) with a white sage and exotic citrus aromatic mist from Alice & the Magician. Call me sheltered but I’ve never had someone spray a fragrance on my cocktail before, and now I want to demand it everywhere I go. It was as if I could taste the cocktail before it ever passed my lips, and both the scent and the taste were just as satisfying on the final sip as on the first.
Sonder & Dram doesn’t offer table service, so all orders must be placed at the bar. Although cocktails are definitely its specialty, there are also three white wines ($8-$10), three $10 red wines, two $9 sparkling wine cocktails and a rotating selection of Maine beers. The $4 daily popcorn was bacon with thyme and cheese on the day we were there. Chef Michael Gosselin (formerly the chef at Lewiston restaurant Fuel and also one of Sonder & Dram’s nine principals) hails from Lewiston and has come up with a menu of a dozen or so small plates of new American cuisine ranging from the popcorn to the $15 Pig Board.
I knew what a dram was (a small portion of something to drink, especially whisky), but I hadn’t heard the term sonder before, so I looked it up. According to the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, sonder is “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own – populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness – an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.” In other words, everyone has a story.
My story now involves researching where I can buy that aromatic cocktail mist. I can neither confirm nor deny that I might also use it on myself.
SONDER & DRAM
WHERE: 12 Ash St, Lewiston
PHONE: (207) 330-3021
HOURS: 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday
AMENITIES: Craft cocktails, local beer and small plates.
BOTTOM LINE: Great date spot if you prefer a bar with chef-prepared food over a restaurant that also has a bar, and a welcome addition to the Lewiston-Auburn area.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Technically yes, but none of the current seating is low enough for a wheelchair user.