In past military battles, flags served as a rallying point for when a formation was broken. They acted as a beacon for troops to collect, catch their breath and reorganize.
On Center Street in Lewiston, the newly unfurled Battle Flag Tavern is a craft cocktail bar meant to serve the same function; a place to gather, stop and regroup.
Battle flags are more than just a point for soldiers to unite. They’re also symbols that stand for a shared set of values and ideas. For co-owners Phil and Tracey Palmeri, Simple and Classic is the rallying cry. Rather than fill the glass with the latest Instagram trends, Battle Flag fills it with a classic cocktail made from a few ingredients: from-scratch syrups, fresh herbs and one or two spirits.
If you’re going to open a business, any business, it helps to connect with like-minded people and companies. We talk a lot about the negative side of tribalism when it comes to political blocs and social issues. But for Battle Flag, bringing together a tribe meant working with local farmers for seasonal produce and sourcing from local makers focused on styles that were built to last.
“Places like Black Button, Buffalo Brewing and Buffalo Distilling fit our vibe because they have the same clean, simple, classic approach,” he said. “They are mostly putting out things that have stood the test of time.”
Anyone who’s walked into a small brewery or distillery and sat across the bar from the owner knows these places offer a more personal touch. It’s a bit of a throwback, to be able to shake the hand of the person who brewed the beer or distilled the gin in your glass. Unlike deep-pocketed investor-owners who take a hands-off approach, these owners work long hours to actually make things; often not to get rich, but to put out a product they can hand to a customer and look them in the eye. For people who appreciate this, it’s like a secret handshake.
Case in point: Buffalo Brewing doesn’t have owners telling the brewer to churn out the latest über-hopped IPA or fruit-stuffed sour, however, head brewer and owner John Domres personally delivered the kegs needed for Battle Flag’s opening weekend.
“This dude came with a few kegs in his car,” Palmeri said. “He told me if I run out, to give him a call and he’d be there the next day with more. You can’t beat that.”
The new Lewiston bar is also stocked with some bottles that will make your favorite mustachioed mixologist cringe to their core: mass-produced liquors from companies like Seagrams. In keeping with the classic styles from Buffalo Brewing and Black Button, these mega brands have, like it or not, stood the test of time.
“I think of it like this: If you walked into Frank Sinatra’s dressing room and wanted a drink, these might be some of the brands he’d have on hand,” Palmeri said. “Just because something isn’t necessarily trendy in the moment doesn’t mean that it isn’t quality.”
Without a full kitchen, the bar only offers a limited menu of bar snacks, a charcuterie plate and a rotating roster of panini sandwiches. The bar can seat around 40 people indoors and there’s room for 20 to 30 people on the outdoor patio, which is open weather-permitting.
Judging by the early response, people are rallying around the tried-and-true, the less-is-more approach, and the camaraderie around Battle Flag isn’t just customers. It’s also resonating with workers.
“We’ve picked up some Lewiston service industry veterans for our staff and I’d like to think it’s because they’re into the vibe,” he said. “What we’re doing isn’t necessarily unique, so to speak, but it is different and unique in Lewiston.”
Opening Hours (subject to change): Monday to Thursday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. – 12 a.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
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