The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2015

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Page 57 of 136

november 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  57 "It just came to me one night," said Johanna Corman, co-owner and creative genius behind Vena's Fizz House. With the craft cocktail scene growing rapidly in Portland, she wanted to do something different. The idea was to use the same quality base ingredients—such as fresh fruits, herbs and housemade syrups—to make delicious, expertly-prepared natural sodas. After some back and forth discussion with her husband, Steve Corman (who had just lost his job as a math and science teacher), they found a location and had a verbal contract that same day. It took two months before Steve came on board. "I knew he'd be the best bartender," Johanna said, "and I told him he had to learn about bitters." Like a good husband, Steve spent months researching, tasting and creating to learn everything he could about bitters. "Bitters are the herb, spice, salt and pepper of the liquid," said Steve, "they change everything." Steve now offers workshops and consulting to help mixologists in New England better understand and use bitters in their drinks. Vena's Fizz Shop also retails over 150 different bitters as well as artisan shrubs and syrups. Vena's opened on July 10, 2013 and quickly became a huge success. About one year after opening, Steve had his very first Negroni made by his lead bartender Nicole. Since Vena's was only open during the day, she encouraged him to add alcohol to the menu in the evenings. With the confidence of knowing that they could be successful even without serving alcohol, they decided to add cocktails to the menu. Today, Vena's has created well over 100 different sodas and cocktails with every new creation influenced by the same curiosity that has put Vena's on the map. "Each drink is a testament to how we've always done things," said Steve. In a city where every bar and restaurant continues to push the envelope (and each other), there is no room for mediocre. Vena's Fizz House has changed the cocktail scene in Portland by encouraging mixologists to try new ingredients, expand their bitters palates and even begin including hand-crafted mocktails on their drink menus. A Few other Must-Stops in Portland, Maine Eventide Oyster Co. 86 Middle St., The Dirty Dirty Martini made with oyster brine, olive brine and hot sauce is a purely balanced martini with a kiss of ocean. The Bearded Lady's Jewel Box 644 Congress St., This hard to find speakeasy with barely 20 seats has a limited menu of very original craft cocktails. The owner, Nathan, even creates his own "leather bitters" for the bar's namesake cocktail. Central Provisions 414 Fore St., This delicious tapas restaurant offers both cocktails and "Temperance drinks." Be sure to try the Pisco Sidecar made with pisco, pear eau de vie, dry curaçao, fresh-squeezed lemon and a sugar rim. Johanna and Steve Corman, co-owners of Vena's Fizz House in Portland, Maine. Try the Lumberjack Love (right; non-alcoholic) and Lumberjack Sexual (made with gin) to taste how adding alcohol to the same base ingredients (spruce pine syrup, lemon, spiced tonic water, alpine herb bitters and wormwood bitters) can create completely different flavor profiles.

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