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New England Drinks, Wine to Cider

Apple cider, cranberry juice, craft beer—of course we drink those. But there's more...

Nashoba Valley Winery Cranberrt-Apple Wine
A tasting at Running Brook Winery in North Dartmouth MA.

Though New Englanders' taste in drinks is largely the same as that of most Americans, there are some specialties and peculiarities. For example, some old-time New Englanders still call carbonated soft drinks "tonic," and the neighborhood food shop where you buy a tonic is a "spa."

Apple Cider

In the autumn, fresh apple cider (non-alcoholic) , or with alcohol) is the beverage of choice throughout the region.

Cranberry Juice

Cranberry juice, from berries raised in the bogs of southeastern Massachusetts, is usually mixed with sugar or other liquids to ease its tartness.

Spring Water

Maine's Poland Spring water is now bottled and shipped throughout the country. Aquafina, the water bottled and sold by Pepsico, and Dasani, the Coca-Cola Company's bottled water, account for one-quarter of the $15 billion of bottled water sold annually in the USA. Some of this water comes not from mountain springs but from the "P.W.S" (public water source— municipal pipes!) in New England towns.

Craft Beers

Craft beer makers and brewpubs are to be found throughout New England. largest and best-known is Boston's Samuel Adams, but other companies supply local beers in nearly every city and region.


Despite its rocky soil and uncooperative weather, enterprising New England vintners have identified hospitable micro-climates for the culture of hybrid and vinifera wine grapes. Many states have passed laws allowing hard-pressed farmers to add limited-capacity wine and spirits production to their agricultural revenue streams.

Newport Vineyards RI

You should definitely sample the vintages offered by New England vineyards and wineries.


New England's small family farms, prosperous in earlier centuries, are hard put to complete with the agribusiness of the 21st century. One of the ways they make ends meet is to produce small quantities of artisanal spiritous liquors: fruit and grape brandies, hard ciders, ice ciders, etc.

Alembic (distillery) at a farm in Maine
An alembic (still) at a farm distillery in Maine.

Mostly sold locally, with limited distribution, some of these can be of surprisingly high quality. Don't be afraid to try them.

Alcoholic Beverage Laws

Use of alcoholic beverages is governed by federal, state, and local laws in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont).

If you enjoy an apéritif with your clams and oysters, a glass of wine with your lobster dinner, and a post-prandial pousse-café spirit, you should know about New England's alcoholic beverage laws.

Minimum Legal Drinking Age

The minimum age for buying, possessing, transporting or drinking alcoholic beverages in the six New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) is 21 years.

Liquor Stores

In the northern New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont), liquor-to-go (take away) may only be bought in state government-operated liquor stores.

In southern New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island) liquor stores are private businesses licensed by the state.

Many stores selling alcoholic beverages to take away may be closed or have limited hours on Sunday, especially Sunday morning.

Licensed Restaurants

A restaurant may have a "full liquor license" (for spirits, wine and beer); a "wine and beer" license (that is, no strong liquor or mixed drinks may be served); or no license.

Nantucket Vineyards
Some vineyards are licensed to serve both wine and food.

(Small hamburger and sandwich shops, and simple breakfast-and-lunch diners and restaurants, are examples of eateries that usually do not serve alcoholic beverages. Indeed, you are not allowed to bring and/or drink alcohol, even beer, in most fast-food restaurants—hamburger shops, pizza shops, etc. )

Service on Sunday

Most restaurants and bars with full liquor licenses may serve liquor by the drink 7 days of the week, including on Sunday.

B.Y.O. & Brown-Bagging

If a restaurant—typically a small, new bistro—does not have a liquor license of any kind, you may be allowed to "B.Y.O." ("Bring Your Own") or "brown-bag it" (bring your own bottle of wine or beer in a brown paper bag). Ask the restaurant to be sure. (Few restaurants allow B.Y.O. as profits from alcoholic beverage sales are among their biggest revenue sources.)


If B.Y.O. is allowed, the restaurant will usually provide "set-ups," that is, corkscrews, glasses, ice, ingredients such as soda for cocktails, etc. But in some restaurants brown-bagging is not allowed, and you'll have to forego alcohol altogether.

Drinking in Public

It is against the law and local town ordinances to drink any alcoholic beverage in public areas outdoors such as streets, parks, and beaches.

The law is to discourage public drunkenness. If you are discreet, you can usually have wine or beer quietly with your picnic. Don't make a big display of drinking it. Pour your beverage without drawing notice, and drink from plain glasses, not from labeled bottles.

"Dry" Towns

A few New England towns are "dry," that is, their town ordinances forbid any shop, restaurant or hotel to sell or to serve liquor anywhere in town; but it is usually not forbidden to bring your own liquor into the town and drink it. In dry towns you must buy your beverages in another town and serve yourself in restaurants.

Alcohol Powder

Alcohol powder, which when mixed with water makes an alcoholic drink, is illegal in all New England states, and indeed in most US states. If you're interested in this form of alcohol, check state and local laws before you buy, sell, carry or use it.