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Featured Business - 118 Proof

In the heart of Portland, Michigan, Timothy Fuller’s 118 Proof emerges as a speakeasy that marries the charm of the Prohibition era with the pulse of contemporary mixology. At its core, 118 Proof is not just a bar; it's an homage to the rich history of cocktails, meticulously crafted for a discerning clientele. Fuller, drawing from the essence of 118 Proof’s location, shares, "118 is a play on words because 118 is also our address, giving us roots in the downtown area." This clever naming reflects a deep connection to Portland's community and history, anchoring the bar's identity within the fabric of the city.


The signature cocktails at 118 Proof are a testament to Fuller's dedication. "The signature cocktails are meticulously designed to represent the ingredients and the care that would have been taken when they were originally created," Fuller explains. This approach ensures that each drink not only tastes exquisite but also tells a story, inviting patrons on a journey through time with each sip.


The creation of 118 Proof was a labor of love, with Fuller scouring antique shops across Michigan for two years to curate original pieces from the Prohibition era, and even custom designing the wall coverings and millwork. "The interior was capture the essence of a Prohibition-era speakeasy while incorporating modern touches," Fuller says, highlighting the painstaking effort to authenticate the speakeasy experience for his guests.


Despite challenges, notably the scarcity of high-end liquors, Fuller remains committed to delivering unparalleled quality. "Availability of liquor is our biggest hurdle...So it's very difficult to work around not having the ingredients we want," he acknowledges, yet this has not deterred the 118 Proof team from their mission to offer a premier cocktail experience.


Looking ahead, Fuller is excited about 118 Proof's role in enriching Portland's nightlife. "118 Proof is just the beginning," he asserts, signaling ambitious plans for the future. Among these is the recent introduction of cocktail classes on Mondays from 6-8pm, and the launch of a riverside deck, promising to offer unique experiences that blend education, enjoyment, and Portland's exceptional river views.


For aspiring entrepreneurs, Fuller advises, "Take it slow, have a vision, stick to your vision, and be meticulous about detail." This philosophy has guided him through the creation of 118 Proof and stands as a beacon for others looking to make their mark in the hospitality industry.


118 Proof is more than a bar; it's a cornerstone of Portland's downtown resurgence, a testament to Timothy Fuller's vision, and a destination for those seeking an immersive cocktail experience rooted in history and elevated by innovation.


This piece was originally posted in the Downtown Portland newsletter for March 2024.  You can find the full newsletter HERE.


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