Louies Modern Cocktail
Louies Modern Cocktail

Sarasota Sips: A Guide to Craft Cocktails

Feeling thirsty? Sarasota's craft cocktail scene packs a flavorful, potent punch. Check out our guide to craft spirits in Sarasota County—where there's an apéritif for every appetite!

Sarasota's Newest Mixologists on the Block:

Brick's Smoked Meats opened in spring, 2017 on downtown Sarasota's State Street, an area known for its fine dining, nightlife and crafty sips. Brick's one-year anniversary on State Street with a special cocktail menu for spring 2018, featuring invigorating sippers like the Green Ti-Tox and Frisky Whiskey. For classics that pair beautifully with Brick's Texas-style smoked meats menu, like the Smoked Manhattan, check out the full cocktail menu.

Tampa-based, locally-sourced eatery and cocktail bar, Boca, joined the downtown Sarasota culinary scene in late summer, 2016. Popular cocktail highlights include Boca's classic Bramble, as well as signature hits like the Fine and Shandy (Old Forester bourbon, Cherry Heering liqueur, lemon, orange, Tampa-brewed Big Storm Arcus IPA, and sugar) and the Garden Grove (El Jimador reposado, Yellow Chartreuse liqueur, lime, sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, cucumber, and basil). Explore Boca's full cocktail menu.

Coolinary, which opened in downtown Sarasota in fall, 2016, has its roots in Budapest, Hungary—from which Chef Attila Bicsár hails and first connected with business partner, Chef William Goldberg. Chef Biscsár's high end Hungarian flair meets Chef Goldberg's New York deli background— and the Coolinary's cocktail menu is perfectly suited to complement the "high end casual" menu items.

Element is a downtown Sarasota newcomer in late 2017. Element's full cocktail menu offers an adventurous arrangement that complements its bold entrees, small plates and steaks. Try the Ernest Hemingway-inspired Moveable Feast cocktail, a flavorful concoction of FEW bourbon, sweet potato-butternut squash syrup and Madeira, finished with freshly-grated nutmeg and orange zest—or get wild with the Acid Jazz, a head-swirling blend or Nolet's Holland gin, grapefruit-bergamot cordial, toasted parsnip-saffron-tarragon syrup, fresh squeezed lemon, Manzanilla sherry, and egg white, finished with orange bitters, lemon aromatics, and edible citrus marigold flower.

Evoq at the new Westin Sarasota offers airy rooftop sips in a casual, elegant atmosphere overlooking all of downtown Sarasota, the bay, and beyond. Try a signature Rosemary Pineapple Margarita at Sarasota's freshest rooftop bar while admiring breathtaking views of downtown Sarasota's booming Rosemary District to the immediate northeast.

Although downtown Sarasota's high-end vegan and vegetarian restaurant, Lila, doesn't offer liquor drinks, it earns a spot among Sarasota's most notable craft spirits thanks to its high-quality, low-proof craft cocktails made with vermouth instead of liquor. Explore the adventurous, botanical flavor profiles—rooted in tastes that are herbal, bitter and sweet—that come alive in Lila's one-of-a-kind vermouth and liqueur-based drinks.

WXYZ Bar at Aloft Sarasota is among the chic new cocktail spots that emerged with the boom in downtown hotels. Fans of things fruity and fizzy should taste the Year of the Dragon, a combination of Ciroc Peach, lemon, muddled strawberry, simple syrup, and club soda.

"Old Fashioned" Favorites: Sarasota's Craft Cocktail Standards

Located in the Sarasota's Ritz Carlton, Jack Dusty boasts hearty craft cocktail chops. In spring 2018, Jack Dusty launched an ambitious line of 22 new cocktails inspired by the restaurant's fictional namesake, Captain Jack Dusty, and his adventures on the high seas. Set sail with Jack Dusty's full cocktail menu, which leans into its nautical stylings with rum, blends specially distilled for Jack Dusty by Siesta Key Distillers and tequila for Jack Dusty by Maestro Dobel Diamante Tequila.

Cocktail critics espresso accolades for Libby's Cafe and Bar's Barista (St. George NOLA coffee liqueur, creme de cacao, espresso, and Absolut Vodka, topped with ground cinnamon “dust”)—one of its most popular signature drinks. Meanwhile, the LCB Signature Old Fashioned puts a vanilla, apricot and chocolate bitters-y twist on the classic cocktail—featuring brown butter-infused Larceny Bourbon. View Libby's full cocktail menu.

Try The Bomber (with peach and sage-infused bourbon) at Louies Modern, and explore Louies full cocktail menu when you visit this happy hour hotspot for Sarasota's young professional set.

Hungry weekend warriors flock to MADE Restaurant on Sunday mornings(ish) for MADE's award-winning brunch plates and brunch cocktails—classic mimosas with refreshing fruit twists and Bloody Marys garnished with MADE's famous "Billionaire Bacon." Beyond the brunch menu, MADE's cocktail list is elevated to high artistry. Try the Artemis + Apollo, a turmeric and pink peppercorn-infused vodka featuring floral liqueurs, Génépi and Tattersall Créme de Fleur, and sprayed with rose water for an earthy, botanical, and sensually Sarasotan sipping experience.

The Table Creekside combines some of the best waterside ambiance in Sarasota with award-winning fine dining and cocktails. Explore The Table's full drink menu, featuring flavorful house-infused vodkas, bourbons and brandy, as well as bold twists on classic cocktails.

Michael's on East is best known for its award-winning wine cellar, but don't miss out on the masterful cocktails in Michael's Piano Bar and Lounge. Check in with Michael's Facebook page to learn the word of the week, and speak easy to lounge mixologists for access to happy hour specials during Michael's "Secret Word Mondays."

Martinis steal the show at Blasé Cafe, Siesta Key's signature martini bar. Try an Elderflower Martini kissed with rosemary syrup undertones, or the sweet and beachy Siesta Joy, featuring award-winning local Siesta Key Toasted Coconut Rum, créme de cacao, cream, and garnished with chocolate and coconut flakes. Explore Blasé Cafe's full drink list for more options.

Selva Grill features a modern and cosmopolitan Peruvian fusion menu complemented by exemplary cocktails. For the full Peruvian experience, try the Pisco Chicha Morada, a South American classic made from with purple corn, lemon and lime juice, pineapple and a cinnamon stick.

Shore Restaurant, located on St. Armands Circle, consistently ranks among the best boozy brunches in Sarasota thanks to its cocktail selection that sips like a good morning wakeup call—even in the early afternoon! Wake up with a refreshing pomegranate mimosa—or start your Sunday with a spicy kick from the bird's eye-chili, lemongrass and cilantro infused Thai One gin cocktail.

The Social on First in downtown Sarasota offers an exciting cocktail menu that ranges from Social originals like the popular Blueberry Smashed Mule—a blueberry-lemon infused twist on the Moscow classic—to the sweet, southern-inspired Chicken N Waffles: a chicken fat-washed bourbon drink with maple syrup and chocolate mole bitters.

At Mélange, sparkling cocktails complement Chef Lan's culinary creations. Read more below to learn about Pangea Alchemy Lab, where Mélange's cocktails are crafted—but in the meantime, check out the sparkling wine-centric cocktails designed to accompany the uniquely delightful Mélange menu.

Pangea Alchemy Lab is a local leader in Sarasota's craft cocktail scene. Try the Sir Sazerac for Pangea's twist on the time-honored, absinthe-washed New Orleans classic, or ask Pangea's masterclass mixologists to whip up a one-of-a-kind tonic from the bar's extensive drink menu.

Like Pangea, State Street Eating House + Cocktails ranks among the most notable cornerstones of Sarasota's craft cocktail community. State Street's extensive craft cocktail menu features an array expertly-executed classics. Be sure to also stop by during Monday Lab Night when State Street's award-winning mixologists push the creative envelope with your suggestions, and on Women and Whiskey Wednesdays, for an expert exploration of whiskey spirits led by State Street's female mixologists.

Sips Down South: Venice and Englewood Cocktails

Although better known for its wines, Café Venice Restaurant and Wine Bar also knows its way around a refreshing cocktail. Try the Lemon Basil Vodka Martini, made with Deep Eddy's Lemon Vodka and housemade basil syrup and garnished with a twist of lemon, fresh basil leaf, and a dry basil-sugar rim.

Crow's Nest, a Venice landmark since 1976, has more than 40 years experience in offering up some of the finest Rum Runners in town—as well as an ever-changing cocktail menu that features hits like the Ginberry Martini—Hendrick's Gin, cucumber-infused vodka, St. Germain elderberry liqueur and muddled strawberries.

Englewood's Farlow's on the Water leans into the flavors of the Caribbean in its robust cocktail menu, featuring a wide selection of fruity frozen drinks, colorful martinis, tropical dessert cocktails, and popular island favorites like Bahama Mamas, Mojitos, Dark 'N' Stormies, and Rum Runners.

On the first take, Fins at Sharky's on the Pier may sound like a casual beach dive— but look more closely at the cocktail menu. Located next door to its longstanding local, tiki-style sister restaurant, Sharky's On the Pier, Fins offers elegant, locally-sourced cuisine and drink offerings in a contemporary coastal chic atmosphere. The seaside sipping options are aplenty—ranging from sophisticated sippers like 15-Year Glen Scotia, to beachy boozers like the Seafoam Margarita—a colorful tequila cocktail topped with lime foam.

In the Mixed: Drinks That Defy Categorization

The Mai Tai at Bahi Hut (a north Tamiami Trail tiki dive landmark since 1956) holds multi-generational 'local legend' status. Even popular Florida fiction writer, Tim Dorsey, claims his iconic 'Florida Man' character, Serge Storms, would knock one back at Bahi Hut—or maybe two, but certainly no more: the bar enforces a strict two-drink maximum limit on its potent Mai Tai. Is knocking back that second Mai Tai an important Sarasota 'rite of passage' or a truly regrettable decision? All we can say is that this cocktail packs one powerful punch, so be sure to scout your designated driver early in the night.

The Hail Mary Bloody Mary, served exclusively during Sunday Gospel Brunch at the Blue Rooster, has been known to inspire a "hallelujah" from the taste buds. Try one on Sundays, or stop by after 5:00 p.m. for a selection of southern-style cocktails like Mint Juleps and Cajun Lemonade.

Ever stared deep into the questionable bowl on the refreshments table at a high school dance and wondered what "punch" really is? The signature Pub Punch at Venice's British Open Pub is a modern spin on a beverage invented by the 17th century sailors of Britain's East India Company. Tired of drinking warm, rancid beer that traveled poorly across the Atlantic in ships' cargo holds, the sailors created punch when they came ashore, using new ingredients of citrus, spices and rum they colonized. The British Open Pub makes its signature punch from a proprietary mix of fruit juices and spices, rums, vodka, and a modern-day splash of Sprite. 

No ode to cocktails is complete without a hat tip to The Gator Club, a historic landmark in downtown Sarasota rumored to have served as a speakeasy during the Prohibition era. The upstairs billiards hall and lounge retains a 1920s vibe: excellent vintage ambiance, with a variety of cocktails to match. The Gator Club is also home base to the Whiskey Obsession Festival's annual Block Party—among the biggest spirits-centric events in the southeastern United States.

Grab a couple friends and head to Siesta Key Village to indulge in Siesta Key Oyster Bar's famous Village Idiot bucket. This powerful, fruity secret-recipe rum elixir is made for sharing: SKOB requires a three-person minimum just to order its famous drink!

Drink Responsibly in Sarasota

With dozens of restaurant, bar and tasting room options from which to choose, Sarasota's craft cocktail scene provides plenty of opportunities to treat your taste buds—and it packs a powerful punch.

Remember to always plan ahead on boozy outings in Sarasota! Choose a designated sober friend to drive before everyone starts sipping, arrange for an Uber or Lyft, or don't be shy about asking your bartender to call a taxi! 

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