What if your favorite bartender had free rein to create their perfect bar? The Blend, Beam Suntory’s bartender community engagement program, challenged PUNCH’s Bartender in Residence Class of 2021 to each bring their “fantasy bar” to life, considering every detail—from the vibe to the music to the most Instagrammable feature (and, of course, the drinks).
- Bar Name: Tell All Your Friends
- Location: Portland, Maine
- Style: Music-centric cozy cocktail den with al fresco aperitivo patio
- Signature Drink: Oaxaca Old-Fashioned (inside), Miami Vice (outside)
- Dream Guest (Past or Present): Anthony Bourdain
- Most Instagrammable Feature: Black brick fireplace and record collection
“Don’t overcomplicate things.” That’s the adage that passionate music geek and bar industry activist Hayley Wilson operates by, and it’s evinced by the crushable, punk-meets-tropical cocktails she’s drawn to. “I tend to lean on classics for guidance and strive to make something that feels elevated but isn’t overly difficult to execute.” As someone who also knows how to throw a good party, she always considers the overall experience when creating a new drink, asking herself, “Where do I want to be, what do I want to be listening to, what do I want to be doing when drinking this?”
So, when asked to dream up her perfect bar, it’s no surprise she’s created a space that pulses with the indie spirit of a live show while also serving as a relaxed neighborhood institution. Meet Tell All Your Friends—Tell All, for those in the know—a community-driven cocktail lounge-cum-al fresco aperitivo experience that serves up fresh takes on classics and hosts your favorite punk bands; the dual space offers both a cozy indoor drinking den and a courtyard, filled with orange umbrellas, overlooking Portland, Maine’s Casco Bay.
Let’s kick it at Tell All Your Friends.
“She’s multifaceted,” says Wilson, of her dream bar. “Somewhere you can cozy up to for a cocktail and snack and listen to some moody tunes, or go out back and have a frozen Miami Vice while something loud and punchy plays on the stereo.” It’s also a place where the importance of hospitality and community are evident. Customers and staff, locals and visitors alike feel at home, enjoying the music and having a good time. “Tell All is an inclusive space that all can feel welcome in,” says Wilson.
Wilson sees parallels between hospitality and the DIY music scene, which are amplified by the fact that most musicians she knows have supplemented their passion by working in bars. Hard work and late nights are inherent to each, but helping to make it all worthwhile is the community of support that defines both industries. She strives to replicate that ethos here.
The bar sits near the Portland waterfront in an “unassuming, but polished” brownstone-style building, identified by a sign above the antique door spelling out “TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS” in warm white neon. An L-shaped bar, around 20 seats, runs along the left side of the room; an oversized antique mirror hangs behind the dark slate bar, with flickering candles adding a warm glow. Tall shelves filled with bottles run up both sides of the mirror, whose reflection spotlights the gallery wall opposite that is filled with an eclectic collection of framed show flyers.
At the end of the bar, in the back corner, is a black brick fireplace surrounded by a few hightops, one ultra-cozy chair and low shelves displaying Wilson’s extensive, eclectic vinyl collection. Though the record playlists are curated by the bartender, guests can flip through the albums and purchase any by the featured local bands whose records are on display. Two gender-neutral bathrooms, each decorated with collages made of vintage Rolling Stone magazines, are found off the back hallway.
You’ll notice some guests choosing to bypass the front bar and beelining for this hallway; follow them to find Tell All’s other half, a courtyard full of tables bedecked with colorful umbrellas and views of Casco Bay. The décor is transportive—an orange, red and coral color palette, wicker and bamboo, lush greenery, bistro lights—and, in cold months, the space is winterized with small fire pits. The bar setup back here specializes in spritzes and frozen drinks, while a stage offers space for Wilson’s favorite punk bands to drop by for Sunday afternoon gigs (“because we’re all too old for late shows now”).
Drinks & Menu
“I’m always down to dive into an original cocktail, but you’ve got to be able to make me a killer Daiquiri as well,” Wilson says. As such, Tell All’s indoor bar features a one-page cocktail menu with riffs on classics, like the five Old-Fashioned variations (the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned is a house favorite). “We have the best Daiquiri you’ve ever had, bitchin’ 50/50 Martinis, and there’s a low-/no-ABV section because, again, Tell All is for everyone,” she says. Meanwhile, the courtyard menu is dedicated to spritzes and frozen drinks (the Miami Vice is the top-selling drink out back). The food will focus on small bites—crispy French fries, steak tartare, veggie dogs, tinned fish—plus a seafood tower spotlighting local oysters.
At Tell All Your Friends, Wilson aims to host a perpetual party in a safe place that guests and staff will think of as their second home, and to infuse a focus on community into every component of the bar. To support sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, Wilson would order from local vendors whenever possible, and specifically highlight local oyster farms on the menu to bring attention to their work. To foster education, Wilson would bring in speakers for staff talks and public events and host an author series with her favorite drinks writers. The bar would also have a charitable component focused on local food insecurity, whether in the form of regular food drives or donating a portion of monthly sales from a featured cocktail. And, of course, there would be pop-ups showcasing Wilson’s talented friends in the bartending community around the country, whom she hopes would feel as at ease in her bar as they do in their own. As she puts it, “Tell All is for anyone looking to feel at home.”