Beloved across New England and beyond, Dr. McGillicuddy’s Mentholmint might not be the brand’s best-tasting flavor, but it’s by far their most popular.
You’re bound to find a Rusty Lantern Market on the side of the road in Maine—that being the name of a beloved gas station chain across New England. Along with your gas station standards, like breakfast sandwiches and wiper fluid, you’ll find that Rusty Lanterns prominently (and proudly) displays local treats and souvenirs from Vacationland to entice hungry patrons. Needham’s, Moxie, Humpty Dumpty potato chips, and Dr. McGillicuddy’s Mentholmint Liqueur.
Whether it’s sitting inconspicuously behind the salty cashier or rubbing elbows with dollar nips and those 10-packs of Fireball, Dr. McGillicuddy’s Mentholmint is just one of the many flavors this legendary brand sells—but it’s everyone’s favorite.
Despite a flamboyant backstory starring a 19th-century bartender named Dr. Aloysius Percival McGillicuddy, whose spirits were “imbued with his genuine zest for living,” Dr. McGillicuddy’s was created by Seagram in the 1980s before Sazerac acquired the brand in 1989. Taking design inspiration from the old-timey medicine bottles and tonics that were sold in an era when you could legally drug your infant to sleep with morphine, the whimsy of Dr. McGillicuddy’s is brought to life with flavors like Apple Pie, Raw Vanilla, Wild Grape, Butterscotch, Mentholmint, and more.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
A bold and refreshing menthol taste gives it a flavor akin to mouthwash or toothpaste-tinged Everclear, while a syrupy-sweet aftertaste lends itself to longing for more. With a consistently low price point across the states it’s sold, you’re bound to find crushed empty bottles of Dr. McGillicuddy’s outside 7-Eleven or Walgreens, where a four-pack of the nips cost less than a sandwich.
View this post on Instagram
Meredith Kalinski works at The Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, where her passion for good food, strong cocktails, and the hospitality industry comes in handy with tourists and locals alike. As it was for most, Meredith’s first run-in with the doctor happened during college.
“I’m sure it’s the same with a lot of people,” says Meredith. “It was either a birthday party or an event on campus—typical college story—but I remember someone’s older cousin recommended Dr. McGillicuddy’s, and it was the first time I really enjoyed a cocktail… if you can call it that.” The details surrounding the proprietary formula are fuzzy, but Meredith recalls a smattering of candy canes, chocolate syrup, Swiss Miss, and of course, Dr. McGillicuddy’s on what she describes as her “warm and fuzzy riff on a mint hot chocolate.”
View this post on Instagram
“It was the first time I felt cool,” adds Meredith. “Concocting this with my friends using a bottle, someone’s cool older cousin snuck in…the shared experience brought all of us together.”
Adam Sousa is the Creative Director at Blyth & Burrows, a cocktail bar in the heart of Portland’s Old Port, whose appreciation for the old-school liqueur is rooted in nostalgia and, oddly enough, respect.
“I mean, it’s one of those O.G. things,” says Adam. “I cut my teeth in the bar world like 15 or 16 years ago, and that was always one of the industry shots. It’s been around forever, and you always see it as that nice end-of-the-night or sneaky little mid-shift reviver.”
For Adam, part of the appeal in Dr. McGillicuddy’s is its approachability. It’s unpretentious, easy on the stomach, and paradise after a long day on your feet. Adam once tried (and regrettably failed) to recreate the spirit as a type of living tribute for the back-of-house staff of a bar he worked out but couldn’t manage to nail the formula.
“It was harder than it seems,” adds Adam, “and maybe that comes from a changing palate and growing to want a little more heat and aggression in a drink.”
Bottom shelf liquor is a social construct. While factors like price, flavor, and quality typically dictate the social standing of liqueurs like Dr. McGillicuddy’s, it’s the invisible stuff like nostalgia, word of mouth, and genuine appreciation that’s consistently kept Dr. McGillicuddy’s on top. On top of what is hard to say, but for the salty New Englanders whose formative years were tinged with notes of menthol mint, Dr. McGillicuddy’s is worth a shot.