The Pinnacle Guide

MAGNUS ON WATER

Maine, USA

Magnus on Water offers a captivating blend of history, hospitality, and innovative cocktails, showcasing the state’s natural beauty and cultural diversity with every drink.

Reservations recommended
Walk-ins welcome
Accessible venue

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

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ENVIRONMENTAL ENDEAVOURS

Magnus on Water works with as many local and small-scale producers and distributors as possible. The team composts all cardboard boxes from beverage delivery and recycles all empty glass. They cross-utilize by-products from the kitchen and bar, fermenting food and fruit that is on the verge of spoiling and repurpose them for a later menu. Oxidised wines are repurposed into shrubs and syrups and they only use compostable tasting cups for staff tastings and pre service meals.

DETAILS OF NOTE

Magnus on Water is a cocktail bar and restaurant but it is possible to just visit for cocktails.  The bathrooms here have framed pictures of old and failed recipes scribbled like chicken scratch on ticket printer paper. Guests will see notes framed like “terrible”, “tastes like band-aids’ and “needs more acid” double underlined littering the walls. These failed recipes are proof for the team that to make good drinks, they first needed to make all of the bad ones.

The Pinnacle Guide

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Magnus on Water, located in Biddeford, Maine, draws its inspiration from the state’s natural beauty and rich cultural history. The space itself reflects this ethos, with weathered wooden beams salvaged from Biddeford’s mills and granite slabs sourced from local quarries. In the centre of the venue is Magnus’s black walnut bar with a clean blue-green resin running through it, symbolising the local Saco river. Elsewhere, warm wood tones and ocean-inspired hues dominate the interior, creating an intimate and welcoming atmosphere. 

 

The bar’s hospitality style is grounded in a shared philosophy of education and heritage. Staff members strive to create an experience that goes beyond the cocktails, aiming to transport guests through storytelling and attention to detail while also sharing elements of their own history. Guests at Magnus find interactions to be genuine and unpretentious. Despite its small size, the bar is highly functional, with a carefully designed layout that allows for efficient service even during peak times.

Magnus’s beverage program draws inspiration from the immediate surrounding rocky seacoast, sandy beaches, woods and rivers. Seasonally foraged ingredients, many of which are sourced by the team or even donated by regular guests, form the foundation of the cocktail menu and are transformed in-house into tinctures, bitters, shrubs, syrups, infusions, and foams. These flavours from Maine are often paired with those inspired by the cultural heritage of the bar’s staff, such as calamansi, aji amarillo, chicha morada and Peruvian pepper, resulting in a menu that is both familiar and adventurous.

Spirits are also given a makeover here, and in-house creations like the brown-butter rum and house-blended whiskey hint at the detail of prep that happens before the doors open at Magnus. Despite this, bartenders are trained to adjust drinks on-shift to accommodate natural variances, such as citrus sharpness. Hand-cut ice adds to the presentation of each cocktail, while thrifted glassware serves as both a functional vessel and a statement piece. The bar’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond its ingredients, with byproducts from the kitchen and bar used interchangeably to minimise waste.

Each week Magnus will put up specials in addition to the menu to allow its staff to get creative and test out recipes. There is however one drink that will never come off, the bar’s iconic The Couch Surfer. This tequila and mezcal margarita variation uses a seafoam both the bar team and guests adore, comprised of house made sea salt, ancho reyes poblano liqueur, and fresh pineapple juice.

In addition to its cocktail menu, Magnus on Water offers a rotating selection of Peruvian-inspired comfort food, reflecting the diverse culinary influences of its staff. The menu changes regularly to reflect the availability of seasonal ingredients and to accommodate the bar’s evolving creative vision.

Magnus on Water takes great care in looking after their staff, making adjustments to ensure everyone is comfortable behind the bar and being conscious of individual needs, such as checking in with staff who are sensitive to light adjustments before dimming the lights in the space. Their training programme is built in a way that understands everybody learns differently, with a collaborative approach to learning that has resulted in a very strong team. 

The bar prides itself as a place where all walks of life can come to break bread and they have a very diverse team across ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender. They have gender neutral bathrooms, featuring framed pictures that state “All Ways Welcome”, and have a pro LGBTQIA+ rainbow symbol hanging on the door. They are committed to serving and supporting their local community and often hold fundraisers and pop-ups to raise money for art projects headed by the staff. They have also pre-made backpacks with snacks and warm clothing items to help support the local unhoused community that occasionally seek their assistance in person.

“There was a positive energy throughout the space and you could tell everyone there was enjoying themselves. The bar room really is a show stopper and I felt totally comfortable looking around and taking it all in.”

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