Print URL:

Bar review: The Bourbon Barber serves cuts and cocktails in Seminole Heights

By Justin Grant, tbt* correspondent
Published: March 8, 2018 Updated: March 12, 2018 at 10:58 AM
GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | Times Jay Johnston, bartender, mixes a drink while her co-worker Jesse Harjani (second from left) looks on at The Bourbon Barber on Saturday, March 3, 2018 in Tampa, FL.

These days, itís not uncommon to be able enjoy a cold brew at your local barbershop. Some businesses have even built their entire model on the marriage of the two, featuring a variety of local craft beers to pair with your fade, beard trim or hot towel shave.

But how about a glass of high-end rye whiskey, or a nice cocktail? Thatís the idea at the Bourbon Barber, a recent addition to the ever-growing drink scene in Tampaís Seminole Heights neighborhood.

Itís hard to argue with the premise. The Bourbon Barberís dual focus on beards and bourbon reads like the mantra of todayís prototypical urban hipster, which, from a purely business perspective, is money in the bank.

With the right timing, location and timely capitalization on modern trends, any business could make a splash without breaking much of a sweat. This is what struck me about Bourbon Barber ó it reads like a million-dollar idea created solely to cash in on what the kids are up to these days, but the reality is far less cynical. This is a proper barbershop and a proper whiskey bar; the kind of place youíll be back to, and one that youíll actively want to hang around in even after your haircut is over.

On the barber side, youíve got four barbers with a collective half-century of experience, including master barber Eduardo Velez, who boasts 20 years behind the chair. The shopís "straight razor wizard" is the appropriately named James Barber.

The barbershop component is separated by a room divider, with a spacious lounge area and waiting room to the side. Across from that is a full-scale cocktail bar, with eight rotating (mostly local) brews on tap and shelves adorned with an array of labels that would be impressive for any high-end whiskey bar, let alone a barbershop.

Naturally, the bulk of Bourbon Barberís stock is comprised of whiskey, but itís not all bourbon. Thereís an excellent selection of American whiskeys in general, ranging from a line of Colorado whiskeys from Stranahanís and Tincup to Stillhouse, a moonshine-style white whiskey packaged in a metal canister designed to look like an antique oil can.

Then youíve got the excellent Hibiki and Toki Japanese whiskies from Suntory, as well as my personal favorite, Nikka Coffey Grain. Thereís Three Fingers Canadian 100 percent rye whiskey, aged in Amontillado sherry casks, and flavored spirits from Cask & Crew, like the cocktail-friendly walnut toffee whiskey. The Bourbon Barber is also one of the few places to carry Horse Soldier, a very nice wheated whiskey produced by the soon-to-open American Freedom Distillery in St. Petersburg.

Bourbon Barberís cocktail list is on point, and it incorporates the other end of the spirit spectrum, as well. The Argyle League pairs Titoís vodka with blackberry, rosemary and lemon, while the Baxter Finley gives Espolon tequila a pineapple, jalapeŮo, lime and agave infusion.

While I donít expect everyone to share my enthusiasm, I was thrilled to learn that the Beards & Barnets cocktail is vegan-friendly, despite its creamy appearance and marshmallow garnish. This decadent concoction is made with Jameson, simple syrup, coconut cream, cold brew coffee and Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters, garnished with a gelatin-free marshmallow, freshly charred with a torch. As I write this I realize that Iím the hipster theyíve been targeting.

On weekends, thereís a lot of activity in the spacious enclosed outdoor patio (itís at least the size of the interior, if not more), which features food trucks and live music, along with sofas and fire pits.

Thatís a lot to work with, in terms of your average barbershop. Of course, that wouldnít be an accurate descriptor of the Bourbon Barber, either. Itís a concept that could be applied lazily and still pay the bills, but the crew here sets the execution bar plenty high, making this one to check out next time you need a fresh cut, or even if you donít.

Contact Justin Grant at [email protected] Follow @WordsWithJG.