It is summertime, yes. But with temperatures nearing triple digits this month, the living ain't always easy. Thankfully, you can always kick back in your hammock with a cool summer cocktail. • Whether you're talking margaritas, mojitos or daiquiris, nothing says Florida R&R like a frosty tropical drink. Most summer cocktails rely on rum or tequila, some are blended into a delightful slush, and many are festooned with fruit, coconut or flavored liqueur. It's the perfect fuel for lying low and lazy in the shade. • Countless recipes for these and other tiki drinks abound online; but we turned to the pros first. We asked some of Tampa Bay's top bars (and one big-time amateur bartender) to share recipes for their finest beachy concoctions, so you can serve them at your next backyard barbecue. • We'd recommend first visiting each of these bars to sample each drink in its natural environment. Experiment with each recipe to suit your tastes. Then, the next time the mercury hits 100 and your sunburn starts itching, you'll know just what to pour to feel like you're in Key West. — Jay Cridlin, Dalia Colón and Susan Thurston
The Swigwam, 336 Corey Ave., St. Pete Beach; (727) 363-7944, swigwam.com.
Before the Postcard Inn and PCI Bar took its place, the Swigwam was an institution on St. Pete Beach — and no drink there was more famous than the potent frozen cocktail known as the Bushwacker. When the Swigwam reopened in March on Corey Avenue, its loyal barflies couldn't wait to get another one. "People are always asking for that recipe," said owner Rob Williams, who spent 23 years as a bartender at the old Swigwam. The only problem: The new Swigwam doesn't have a liquor license. (It does serve more than 40 beers, as well as cider and sake, and is seeking a new license.) To tide over fans until the bar can serve Bushwackers again, Williams was happy to share this recipe, which originated at a bar in Fort Lauderdale.
1 ounce regular vodka
1 ounce white rum
1 ounce Bailey's Irish Cream
1 ounce Kahlua
1 ounce amaretto
Splash of Coco Lopez
Ice (small cubes)
Blend vodka, rum, Bailey's, Kahlua, amaretto and Coco Lopez in blender until ice is thoroughly slushy. Lace a glass (or, for the full Swigwam experience, a 16-ounce plastic cup) with chocolate syrup. Pour mixture into glass. Makes 1 drink. (To blend multiple drinks at once, just increase the volume of each ingredient.)
Source: Rob Williams
Daiquiri Deck, 14995 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach; (727) 393-2706, daiquirideck.com.
There are 33 frozen drinks on the menu at the Daiquiri Deck in Madeira Beach. But that's only the beginning. You can combine any of the slushy concoctions to suit your own tastes. The bar makes its drinks in bulk, then serves them from a row of brightly colored dispensers, so mixing and matching is a snap. Not only that, but the bar — which also has a location in Siesta Key — debuts new flavors every month, so even regulars never know what will be on the menu. The Daiquiri Deck combines various rums, vodkas and liqueurs with flavored juices and crystals (at home, you can substitute Kool-Aid mix) to create individual recipes. Some work (the strawberry/lemonade/margarita Patriot Missile is a hit), some don't (a Red Bull daiquiri was a bust). At home, the only limits to blending daiquiris are those of your own imagination. To get you started, here's the Deck's basic piña colada, which veteran bartender Kelly Jamruk renamed the "Peña Colada" in honor of Tampa Bay Rays slugger Carlos Peña, an occasional customer.
2 ounces spiced rum
4 ounces piña colada mix
2 ounces Coco Lopez (one small can)
1 cup ice
Splash of Bacardi 151
Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend. Top with a splash of Bacardi 151. Makes 1 drink.
Source: Daiquiri Deck
Jack Willie's, 1011 St. Petersburg Drive, Oldsmar; (813) 854-1972; jackwilliestikibar.com.
Legend has it Jack Willie brought the Big Bamboo back from of one of his many drug-smuggling travels. The more believable truth is owner Don Alvino and his committee of taste testers came up with it at the bar 10 years ago. They wanted a signature drink that reflected the bar and grill's laid-back Floribbean feel. They also wanted something with a kick. The drink was such a hit, Alvino decided to serve it in a souvenir hurricane glass that customers can take home. He named it the Big Bamboo in reference to the outdoor tiki bar. It's tasty, refreshing and so deceptively strong that the bar has a two-Big Bamboo limit. The drink, which is also available at Alvino's Tarpon Turtle restaurant, sells for $10.95 — or $7.95 for Little Bamboo not in a signature glass. Bartender Angie Paris says the drink is a good way to get "nice and loose'' for the bar's weekend hula hoop contests. Whoever goes the longest gets a prize: a free drink of their choice.
11?4 ounce Bacardi Orange
3?4 ounce banana liqueur
3?4 ounce Midori
1 ounce float of Bacardi 151
Fill hurricane glass with ice. Add Bacardi Orange, banana liqueur and Midori. Top with ice and fill with pineapple juice. Float shot of Bacardi 151 on top. Serve right away without stirring or shaking. Drink will have a layered look with yellow, green and light brown swirls.
Source: Angie Paris
Rum River Bar & Grill, 7811 Bayview St., Port Richey, (727) 849-2121, rumriverbarandgrill.com.
Mike Lowe knows a thing or two about running waterfront restaurants. He's owned Capt'n Jack's Waterfront Grill in Tarpon Springs since 2008 and Catches Waterfront Grill in Port Richey since 2002. In October, the upscale family restaurant got a more playful, relaxed little brother — Rum River. Perched on the banks of the Cotee River, the watering hole claims to be the largest tiki bar in Pasco County. It's especially popular with boaters. In fact, boat slips are available, so come by land or by sea for some liquid refreshment. The most popular thirst quencher? The rum runner, natch. "It's a very Florida drink. It's fruity, and it's a strong drink," said bartender Emily Sauer, 41, who's worked at Rum River since it opened. Every Friday through Sunday, enjoy live music while you sip your drink. Said Sauer, "It's very refreshing." But don't take her word for it. Try the recipe.
2 ounces Bacardi Dragon Berry
2 ounces Myers's Rum (dark)
1 ounce banana liqueur
1 ounce blackberry brandy
2 ounces pineapple juice
2 ounces orange juice
Splash of grenadine
1 ounce float of Bacardi 151
Sugar (for rim)
Orange slice and cherry (for garnish)
You can make this drink two ways — frozen or on the rocks — but the recipe is essentially the same. For the more popular rocks recipe, mix Bacardi Dragon Berry, Myers's, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, pineapple juice, orange juice and grenadine in a shaker, and pour over a full glass of ice. For the frozen recipe, blend the same ingredients in a blender with ice. Pour either mixture into an 18-ounce hurricane glass that's been rimmed with sugar (Rum River uses cherry-flavored sugar). Add Bacardi 151, and garnish with orange slice and cherry. Makes 1 drink..
Source: Emily Sauer
Columbia Restaurant, Ybor City: 2117 E Seventh Ave., (813) 248-4961; Columbia Cafe Tampa: 801 Old Water St. #1905, (813) 229-5511; St. Petersburg: 800 Second Ave. NE, (727) 822-8000; Clearwater: 1241 Gulf Blvd., (727) 596-8400; columbiarestaurant.com.
Everything about the 105-year-old Columbia is legendary (see Page 55). There's even a story behind its beloved mojitos. For nearly a century, the institution made the drink: by muddling the mint. But that changed a decade ago after president and CEO Richard Gonzmart had lunch with his friend Booker Noe, the late Jim Beam bourbon innovator. It was over that meal that Gonzmart learned the secret to making a great mint julep and a great mojito, too: simple syrup. The result is a more efficient, more invigorating beverage. "It's just such a cool, refreshing drink," said longtime bartender Barry Strauss, 52, who makes 50 to 70 mojitos in a typical eight-hour shift. "You sit there and wonder who's been drinking it there for 100 years?" The mint-infused syrup is so versatile that it inspired the Columbia's most popular lunch special, a mojito chicken that's marinated in the syrup. Strauss also suggested adding the syrup to iced tea or pouring it over strawberries for dessert. But if you prefer to keep it classic, try this mojito recipe, used by all the Columbia restaurants. It makes a pitcher, which is a good thing, 'cause you'll want seconds.
7 ounces of Bacardi Superior (or any light rum)
13?4 cups sparkling water
1 tablespoon fresh mint, packed tightly
Juice of 2 limes
Mint simple syrup (see recipe below)
Mint sprigs and lime slices (for garnish)
Fill pitcher with ice and rum, sparkling water, fresh mint, lime juice and simple syrup. Stir well. Serve in glasses garnished with mint sprigs and lime slices.
Mint simple syrup
3?4 cup granulated sugar
3?4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon fresh mint, packed tightly
Mix sugar with hot water and add mint. Boil water for 10 minutes, stirring to dissolve sugar. Strain to remove mint; chill before using.
Source: Angela Geml
Wildwood BBQ and Burger, 6300 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. (727) 369-4950; postcardinn.com
The mint julep is synonymous with spring — specifically, the Kentucky Derby in May. But who's to say this cool, sweet drink can't be refreshing in the summer, too? At Wildwood BBQ and Burger, inside the Postcard Inn in St. Pete Beach, the emphasis is on bourbon, a unique approach for a beach restaurant. But it seems to be working. "There's an association I think we have that's kind of old — it sort of goes back to the mid-'50s, when we only drank highballs — where white spirits were for summer and brown spirits were for winter. I just think that's kind of a faded paradigm," said Eben Klemm, senior manager for wine and spirits for B.R. Guests Restaurants, which operates Wildwood. "Ultimately, it's what you mix it with that makes it a summer drink or a winter drink." Take Wildwood's signature drink, the Postcard Julep, a cool blend of mint, peach and bourbon. "Fantastic for the summer," Klemm said. You can't order it at the outdoor PCI Bar, but you can at Wildwood and take it outside.
2 sprigs fresh mint (plus 1 sprig mint for garnish)
2 ounces Maker's Mark bourbon
1 ounce peach simple syrup (see below)
Muddle 2 sprigs mint with 1 ounce peach simple syrup in the bottom of a tumbler. Add bourbon and ice, and a sprig of mint for garnish. Makes one drink.
Peach simple syrup
1?4 cup sugar
1?4 cup water
2 peaches (peeled, pureed and strained)
You'll only need 1 ounce of this to make one drink, but it's easy enough to make in larger quantities. Peel, puree and strain two peaches (you can substitute peach nectar, if you can find it), and set aside. Bring to a boil equal parts sugar and water. Add enough peach puree to equal the amount of sugar-water mixture (in this case, 1?2 cup). Let simmer, then remove from heat.
Source: Eben Klemm