The best cocktails in Southern Maine are not from a bar

bimini gin

Of all the gin joints in the world, walk into this one.

Round Turn Distilling in Biddeford on Thursday and Friday nights is a hidden find where handcrafted, artisan-distilled drinks inspired by Ernest Hemingway flow to cool jazz.

Now before you say “I don’t like gin,” this isn’t gin. At least no gin that I’ve ever tasted. Bimini Gin, out for two months now, is juniper and grain alcohol laced with the natural oomph of camomile and secret botanicals. The result is like the Bahama region it’s named after: a relaxing surprise not far from home.

“This recipe is straight from the book,” said Darren Case, the owner and distiller who will make you an Ernest-approved Bimini Special No. 1. with coconut water, lime and Angostura bitters or a classic gin and tonic in his tasting room for $6 — each. He serves them up in tall gin glasses over ice. No mere tasting sizes.

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Darren Case mixing up a Bimini drink

A cheerful thowback. I had to rub my eyes, clean my glasses and judge by buzz level. When was the last time I paid $6 for a cocktail? Must’ve been the pre-mixology ’90s.

The spirit that Hemingway wrote about in “Islands in the Stream,” is now being made in an old cotton mill with retro drinks and retro prices to boot.

True Biddeford is not set amidst “the white sands and tall coconut palms of the islands of Bimini in the 1930s,” but slip into Round Turn for a drink and you will feel the friendly lullaby of the tropics for a few treasured moments.

Case, a Kennebunkport native who did time in Brooklyn, is on hand to tell you whatever you want to know about the classic spirit made for cocktailing.

The industrial setting, tanks are in the back, somehow works. A low-slung record table spins vintage tunes, while twinkly white lights strung from the soaring ceiling, worn wooden floors and candle-lit tables await the next wave of travelers, poets and thieves.

This joint may never rage like Rick’s Cafe, but it won’t be hush-hush for long. Tasting room is open Thursday and Fridays from 4 to 9 p.m. 32 Main St. Pepperell Mill. Cheers!

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.