It is an understatement to say that Bitter and Pour, the new speakeasy set up in the Doggery’s former space, had a lot to live up to.

Its predecessor was a Rochester favorite. The Doggery was always included in my list of places for those new to the area to visit. My former beer brewing technology instructor liked it so much when he came with his significant other, that they both went twice while here for the first time.

The prohibition-era speakeasy was atmospheric, subtly lit with an orange glow, and even had an old phone booth for photo ops and ordering food from Grand Rounds Brewing Co.

Would this new joint fill its shoes?

I was instantly in awe and confused about how to enter Bitter and Pour. A conspicuous book shelf should have given it away, but I was just so shocked at the change underneath Rochester’s bustling drink corridor to look for a secret entrance.

What’s inside, though, is familiar. Illumination comes from either flame or bulbs enshrined in fixtures that have a dash of sparkle to them. Even the menu has a bit of a glittery sheen to it from the paper coating. And the 16 cocktails all sounded great, providing a wide breadth of liquor and flavor voices.

I chose the Hemingway daiquiri first, mostly based on the name. The daiquiri is fruit-forward. The cherry liquor, lime, and a hint of grapefruit provide a drink that would taste great on a patio, if Bitter and Pour had one.

As I sipped I was able to watch people enter. The smiles from people who were finding the secret entrance to B/P — as the place has branded itself on its menu — were infectious. How fun, and a nod to the legacy The Doggery left behind.

Ready to move on to my second drink, I asked the server about what was popular. He sat down in the chair across from me and took time to explain what was being poured the most. The Old Fashioned is number one, followed by a drink built around a green Chile vodka, and another fruity rum concoction.

I asked about a Wisconsin Old Fashioned. Were they willing to swap in brandy?

Absolutely, they were.

As much as I like stouts barrel-aged in buffalo trace bourbon barrels, I have to have that brandy. It reminds me of home in the north woods of Wisconsin, and weekends spent at the cabin on the lake, adjacent to one of the most diverse swamps in all of Wisconsin – all thankfully owned by a family who appreciates nature.

This drink brought me back to all of that. My winters are reserved for Minnesota and work, so it was a nice reprieve.

Though my sentimentality for The Doggery will always be strong, Bitter and Pour is fun, and victoriously so during what was only its first week. It would do well to offer more than four beers on tap, and more unique choices, but it is, as the English say, early doors.

I expect much for the bar now filling The Doggery’s space – and I’m impressed with what was happening during its first week.

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