Sunday, May 20, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Creative cocktails at the Mill restaurant in Brandon

In a relatively short period of time, the Mill restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg has earned a great reputation, accumulating several local and state awards, as well as national attention from publications such as USA Today.

A rustic, Old Florida-focused restaurant in downtown St. Pete is right at home, but it’s more of a novelty in Brandon, where the Mill opened its second location in August.

In a town predominantly known for chain restaurants and straightforward fare, the Mill is doubly unique. Not only has it jumped straight to the top of the list for high-end cocktails in Brandon, it’s also as artistically eclectic as any spot in town.

From an otherwise unassuming shopping plaza location, the Mill’s entrance-facing picture windows put its unusual interior on full display. A modest dining area is backed by floor-to-ceiling steampunk gears, a mixed-media art installation doubling as full-time decor.

On the other side of the room is a long bar, backed by rusty iron bars, topped with discolored, roughly hammered copper and lit from above by lamps encased in frayed burlap sacks.

Additional hanging lamps swap the sacks for loosely bound wood slats, like barrels in mid explosion. The barstools are upholstered with scraps from old denim jeans, completing the surreal-rustic look, like a David Lynch adaptation of a John Steinbeck novel.

The Mill — both in Brandon and in St. Petersburg — is known primarily for its food, but it deserves credit for its outstanding bar program, which features a quality mix of local and domestic brews, international wines and very high-end spirits.

There are quite a few spirits behind the bar that you won’t find just anywhere.

Ambitious whisky fans will appreciate the variety of tip top-shelf scotch, like the Macallan Rare Cask and Johnnie Walker Blue Label, but there’s also a great selection beneath those, including some unique American whiskeys, like the 1870 Original Batch and 1897 Bottled in Bond versions of Old Forester.

It’s not all whisk(e)y, either. De Luze Cognac makes for a special after-meal treat, as does Grand Marnier 1880. If you don’t feel like doubling your dinner tab, you’ll still find plenty of unique and affordable options to finish up with, like Wondermint peppermint schnapps from Wisconsin’s Death’s Door Spirits.

It almost goes without saying that the Mill keeps a solid cocktail list on hand, and that’s where the real fun is. Ten drinks run the gamut of cocktail creativity, incorporating ingredients ranging from coffee-infused Tito’s and Cynar artichoke liqueur, to cactus pear puree, carrot-ginger juice and Frosted Flakes. Yes, Frosted Flakes.

Most of the cocktails are original creations, but some are interesting takes on the classics, like That Gin Drink, a barrel-aged spinoff of the Negroni, featuring Beefeater gin with Aperol instead of Campari, a splash of lemon juice and elderflower liqueur.

Whichever direction you choose, you’ll have no issue finding something unique and excellent on the Mill’s drink list.

That’s only fair for a restaurant frequently touted as one of the best we’ve got, but it’s especially good news for Brandon, which is a town that can use a great cocktail bar. The funky decor? That’s a bonus.

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

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