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Guests attend the monthly speakeasy-style parties at the Castle in Ybor City. The parties are held in the dimly lit dungeon area of the nightclub, usually reserved for special events.

Luis Santana/tbt*

Guests attend the monthly speakeasy-style parties at the Castle in Ybor City. The parties are held in the dimly lit dungeon area of the nightclub, usually reserved for special events.

I decided to mix it up a bit this week and head to a monthly event rather than a particular bar or lounge. So I stopped into the Castle on Oct. 26 for this month's installment of Re-Sessions.

Running solid for about a year now, Re-Sessions is a monthly, themed event that's somewhat underground. And since it's held in the Castle's "Dungeon," I figured it was an ideal trip for the week of Halloween.

The Dungeon is clearly meant to live up to the dark imagery that its name suggests — a sunken lounge area is surrounded by cobweb chains hanging on the wall. Despite the spooky decor, the Dungeon is actually a very comfortable lounge. A DJ booth sits in the center, and there's a small dance floor directly in front of it.

The night is modeled after a speakeasy — the doors to the club are closed, and the music isn't clearly audible from the street. You're expected to bring an invitation, which are sent out by Castle employees, and which often take clever forms — this month's was a box of candy cigarettes with the Re-Sessions logo on it. The drinks are from the Prohibition era, and the bartenders look the part, sporting clothes reminiscent of the period.

Indecisiveness set in as soon as I opened the drink menu, which featured many excellent, classic cocktails. All the basics were there, from the Gibson to the Sazarac. As I mentioned earlier, Re-Sessions is a themed night, and this month's theme was the TV show Mad Men. Most guests were dressed in suits or 1960's-style dresses, and everyone had a rocks or cocktail glass in hand.

Each month brings a new list of signature drinks, impressive given the variety and creativity of the cocktails; the fact that these drinks are 2-for-1 doesn't hurt. This month's featured some original cocktails, as well as new twists on classics like the Kentucky champagne — this one made with bourbon, champagne, elderflower liqueur and simple syrup. Not all of the drinks are this elaborate; for those wanting to stick with the basics, you can get your gin in martini, Gibson, or gimlet form. The gimlet was among the best I've tried, with the proportion of gin to sweetened lime juice mixed just right.

As is typically the case with premium cocktail bars, the prices aren't in the budget range. If you order from the standard menu, expect to pay a minimum $10 for your drink. That said, the drinks are generous, with straight-up cocktails filling 10-oz. cocktail glasses nearly to the brim. The name may imply otherwise, but the Dungeon really lends itself to the leisurely sipping of ­cocktails. This is fortunate because one could easily wind up feeling a bit rough in the morning if these potent drinks are consumed too quickly.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I've known about this event since it started and haven't made the effort to be there until now. The amount of effort that the promoters and bartenders put into it really shows through the creative monthly themes and quality of the drinks. Although the Mad Men theme wasn't quite as spooky as I would have expected from the Castle on the days leading up to Halloween, the night was certainly memorable.

I'll definitely be there next month, where you'll find me kicking back in the lounge, sipping fine cocktails from the days when they still knew how to make them.


Re-Sessions at the Castle

2004 N 16th St., Ybor City. (813) 247-7547; Invites are preferred, but noninvitees can get in with a small cover.

The vibe: A hip, themed night with smart music and smarter cocktails.

Booze: Beer, wine, liquor. Beer and wine is in the $5-$10 range; specialty cocktails are $10-$12. Some cocktails are 2-for-1.

Specialty: While the selection of classic cocktails is certainly impressive, I'm always a sucker for in-house signature drinks, like Dari's "Mistress"—an interesting mix of Bluecoat gin, simple syrup, rosewater and blood orange bitters, garnished with a Thai basil leaf. The signature drinks change monthly, but there's enough variety to suit any taste.

Hours: 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on the last Tuesday of every month.

UNDERGROUND SENSATION 10/28/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:17pm]
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