Toast of the Town
There’s nothing more evocative of a place than scent and taste. Our memories are tied very strongly to our senses and there’s something about the smell of coconut that makes us think of a day at the beach or the cool crisp taste of cucumber that puts us in mind of a sultry speakeasy. We took some time out of our very busy schedules to put together a definitive list of signature Sarasota cocktails and exceptionally cool bars that we think will keep you sipping and smiling for years to come. As everyone’s favorite author (and noted barfly) Ernest Hemingway said, “For what are we born if not to aid one another?”
The bar at Selva Grill has an intimate international vibe with dark wood and red accents and a long narrow walkway that leads to comfortable semi-private enclaves furnished with couches and armchairs. The cocktail we recommend at Selva Grill is the Pisco Sour. Pisco Sour is the national drink of Peru and according to Robert Boyland, barman extraordinaire, “The Pisco Sour defines Selva Grill because it complements our Peruvian fusion menu, it’s refreshing thanks to the fresh lime, it’s tasty, and it’s pretty.” We love the combination of Peruvian Quebranta Pisco, orange vanilla simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and fresh meringue.
When we think about MADE our mouths begin to water for fried chicken that would make a Southern grandmother proud, gourmet jalapeño grilled creamed corn, Chef Mark Woodruff’s daily kitchen soup, and billionaire bacon. The best way to enjoy the billionaire bacon is in the MADE Bloody Mary, which is served in a Mason jar and comes laden with edible garnishes and boasts a ridiculously tasty house-made Bloody Mary mix. We like ours spicy!
Point of Rocks Margarita
Eat Here on Siesta Key has a fantastic new manager in Patrick Bucko. Patrick has been a fixture on the Sarasota culinary scene for many years and he’s passionate about creating a vibe that encourages people to linger in the lounge after they’ve enjoyed their meal. Barman Phil Hiles and the rest of the team are as passionate as their new leader and we look forward to spending more time in the lounge at Eat Here. The Point of Rocks Margarita is a perfect drink to enjoy while spending time on Siesta Key. It’s a combination of 100% silver agave tequila, Cointreau, and house-made lemon and lime limoncello. We asked Patrick about the drink and he told us that the lemons and limes are steeped in vodka for six days, which explains the incredible tart flavor. The drink is shaken and served on the rocks … That’s the Point!
Jack Dusty at The Ritz-Carlton
Candice Ruibal is the new captain helming the bar at Jack Dusty and she’s cruising full speed ahead with a brand new cocktail that we think captures the spirit of Jack Dusty’s maritime theme and delectable cuisine thanks to its inspiration and ingredients. According to Candice: “The East Indiaman was a general name for any sailing ship operating under charter or license to any of the East India Companies of the major European trading powers of the 17th through the 19th centuries. I was influenced by the botanicals and ports that these cargo ships would have carried and visited.” We won’t tell you all of the ingredients to Candice’s creation— we’d rather you visit her yourself— but we will tell you that this cocktail is filled with exotic culinary ingredients like lemongrass, Thai chili tincture, house-made pineapple cilantro syrup, and cream of coconut. We think we’ve found a new favorite drink!
Watermelon Jalapeño Margarita
Chef Evan Gastman at The Cottage is focused on providing guests with the best possible dining experience and he believes that the bar in his restaurant may as well be an extension of his kitchen. He loves to collaborate with the bar to create drinks that pair beautifully with his culinary offerings. The Watermelon Jalapeño Margarita at The Cottage combines some of our favorite things: watermelon, jalapeño, and tequila! Muddled fresh watermelon and jalapeños are the base for this tasty treat that is sure to cool you off after a day at the beach and spice up your night with refreshing flavor. We could spend all day in this treehouse tiki bar eating delicious food and drinking this margarita. Maybe we will.
LCB Irish Coffee Cocktail
We’ve always loved Libby’s Café and Bar and we especially love going on Sunday mornings to take advantage of the make-your-own Bloody Mary and Mimosa bar during a leisurely brunch. With the advent of the newly redesigned LBar at Libby’s we’re presented with even more reasons to visit—as if we needed them! LBar has the vibe of a speakeasy in the French quarter or Paris in another era. It has an air of insouciance and whimsy and we think the best cocktail to enjoy in such an environment is the LCB Irish Coffee. It starts with an ice cube made of coffee and it’s topped with Jameson Irish Whiskey, cinnamon, vanilla bean cream, and grated nutmeg. A cold Irish coffee that tastes like it was thought up in a dream? We’ll have another.
Coconut Cloud Martini
Did you know that Tommy Bahama is a fictional character created by the owners of the Tommy Bahama brand? The story is that they used to talk about this guy, Tommy Bahama, and what kind of guy he would be. What would he wear, what would he eat, what would he drink? One day it all came together and they thought, “We love this guy! Who wouldn’t want to dress, eat, and drink like Tommy Bahama?” We love the Coconut Cloud Martini at Tommy Bahama on St. Armand’s Circle. This creamy confection is not overly sweet and it delivers enough fresh coconut flavor that we can’t help but want to walk along the nearby Lido Beach as soon as we take that first sip. That’s probably what Tommy Bahama would do.
State Street’s lounge side harkens back to the era of Prohibition with its heavy drapes and bookshelves filled with bottles of obscure and fantastic liquor. The bartenders are all serious about their craft, knowledgeable, and friendly. Mixologist Topher Nalefski told us about the State Street take on a cocktail called the White Linen. “We use pre—Prohibition Era and modern classics for inspiration. The White Linen originated in Northern California from Rene Dominguez at Shady Lady in 2007. We’ve twisted it into our own take on this new classic and we think it’s a great cocktail for escaping the heat and humidity for bright and refreshing tipple.” We couldn’t agree more and we think the combination of gin, cucumber, St-Germain, and fresh-pressed lemon juice is the perfect elixir for all that ails us.
Raff’s Espresso Martini
Clasico has hip, cool, and fresh on lockdown. We love this sexy café on the corner of Main and Palm with its variety of outdoor seating options and black and white and red interior. There’s nothing like the energy of an open kitchen and a fun bar. If you’re looking for a drink to ease you into a night of dancing with your friends or an after-dinner cocktail rather than dessert we recommend Raff ‘s Espresso Martini, which is lovingly concocted with house espresso made from the best available espresso beans and chocolate decadence. It’s mysterious, sinful, sexy, and there’s nothing artificial about it, just the way Raff Perna intended it to be.
The Table Creekside
The Ol’ Smokey
The bar at The Table Creekside offers house-infused liquors that are all crafted with care to impart intense flavor and are just as good without mixers as they are when used in one of the creative and enchanting cocktails that complement Chef Pedro Flores’ incredibly tasty global cuisine. We can’t get enough of Ol’ Smokey, which begins with house-infused honey apple bourbon, two dashes of black walnut bitters, and two splashes of water. The ingredients are combined in a bottle filled with apple wood smoke and then poured over an orange-infused ice sphere. Order this on a first date and be prepared to get asked out on a second date.