Aidan’s Pub in Bristol is not unlike a seaside version of Cheers. It’s been open seemingly forever, everyone knows your name after a visit or two and you can get a spring break-worthy cocktail on beach days as easily as a respectable pint on rainy ones. The establishment’s longtime bartender Lyndsey Hanson spoke with us about what makes Aidan’s an enduring local hub, what not to order (pretty please) on her watch and how to channel sunshine Irish-style.
Rhode Island doesn’t lack for pubs. What do you think sets Aidan’s apart and makes it a mainstay?
It’s near the water – that’s number one. We have great sunsets going for us. And there’s a real family atmosphere, both in terms of the staff and the patrons, too. I’ve been here 13 years, and Aidan [the pub’s owner] is like a second father. We all make sure to treat everyone who walks in the door like they’re a friend, whether it’s their first time here or their tenth.
Because I’m interviewing on an empty stomach, I noticed that you have a pretty extensive food menu (for a pub).
[Laughs] Yes, we do lunch and dinner, brunch, late night and desserts – pretty much everything. The tagline on our menu is “Irish Eats” but it’s not totally Irish – more of a mix of Irish dishes like Corned Beef and Cabbage, plus traditional pub fare. Usually we put a little spin on things, though, to make it more modern and fun.
Can you give me an example?
Sure, like with our potato skins. You can find potato skins in almost every pub, right? We put a twist on ours with a Reuben sandwich-inspired version.
Alright, let’s talk booze. What drink order do you wish you could embargo permanently?
Hands down, frozen blender drinks. Especially if they’re virgin. Nothing is worse than making those!
Bartenders worldwide share your pain. On the flip side, what’s your personal poison of choice?
I like the Black Velvet that we make, which is Magners hard cider topped with Guinness. If I’m keeping things simple, I go for a vodka soda.
Tell me about Aidan’s beer program.
We’re known for our beers. We have over 24 on draft and three that we change up regularly. One is the featured beer of the week, which we shift out when the keg is kicked. One is what we call a “Hop Line,” which is usually an IPA. And the last one is the “Big Beer of the Week,” which is one of the high-octane, extreme kinds of brews.
No surprise, of course, that a pub’s main draw would be beer. What about your mixed drinks?
We definitely serve a lot of them, especially in the warmer months. We have some very popular drinks that are kind of tropical and are great for taking outside on our deck.
Let’s say I want to channel that summer deck vibe, stat. What should I order?
Our Shark Bait is popular in the summertime: We make it with Finlandia vodka, Malibu rum, grapefruit and pineapple juices, and a little bit of grenadine. Best enjoyed on one of our outdoor decks, of course.
Speaking of warm weather, what’s the seasonal change like at Aidan’s?
There are a lot more tourists, but the regulars keep coming, too. We’re open 365 days a year and even blizzards don’t stop them from coming in.
Really? That’s some dedication.
Oh yeah. A hurricane was the only thing that ever shut us down for several days, and even then, we just moved the party to a bar up the street.
5 John Street, Bristol