Monday, December 11, 2017
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Coasters Lounge and Tommy's Tiki Bar right on Clearwater Beach

Florida maintains a perpetual presence in best-beach lists year after year, and it's not uncommon for Pinellas beaches to end up right at the top. You've been — are you surprised?

This year, TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Award for best beach in the nation went to Clearwater Beach. Aside from its "year-round" appeal, one of the reasons Clearwater Beach snagged the top spot is because it's both highly active and diverse, providing a wide range of activities and environments along mild, white-sand beaches.

With that in mind, I'm going to spend the next three weeks covering Clearwater Beach drinking spots, with each installment focusing on a different way to experience the No. 1 beach in the country.

Let's say you're a tourist who heard about the award and wants to go all-out, expenses be damned. Or you're a local who wants to splurge on a staycation. You might end up at the same spot that most visitors to the beach see first upon arriving at Mandalay Avenue: Hilton Clearwater Beach.

Like most beach resorts, Hilton Clearwater Beach has a few different drinking options. There's the Carambola Restaurant, which features balcony views of the beach and an extensive wine selection. There's the Sand Bar & Grill, where you can sip tropical cocktails poolside.

And then there's Coasters Lounge, a laid-back cocktail bar near the hotel lobby. You know the kind of place: It's where you meet your friends who are taking too long to get ready upstairs, or where you power through a hangover wearing your darkest sunglasses on the second day of vacation.

Picture windows provide generous natural light in the daytime, along with views of the pool and beach. Inside, boxy wicker lounge chairs with warm-toned cushions sit atop a floor of off-white rectangular tile.

The cocktail menu is broken into three categories: Bold, Classic and Light & Fruity. There are some standouts in each category, although I'm slightly confused about the fact that the Kentucky Sidecar is made with Courvoisier — that's a traditional sidecar (the Kentucky should be made with bourbon).

All the favorites are there, too, each focusing on a different brand of spirit: an old-fashioned with Maker's, Manhattan with Woodford Reserve, a margarita with Avión, punch with Pyrat XO, a Tom Collins with Bombay Sapphire, a vodkatini with Double Cross and so on.

Of course, you've got to head out to the beach, and that's where Tommy's Tiki Bar comes in. It's nothing elaborate, just a shaded, ceiling-fan cooled tiki bar on the beach just below Coasters Lounge. The cool thing is that it's not just on the beach — it's on the sand, as in, take your shoes off and get the sand between your toes. That's as Clearwater Beach as it gets.

You can sit around the rectangular tiki bar, or kick back in umbrella-shaded lounge areas with Adirondack chairs. In the background is the famous Pier 60.

Troical cocktails include piña coladas, margaritas, daiquiris, hard lemonades and the rest. For margaritas, you can choose a classic version — the Gold Medal 'Rita — or you can select from Backyard Margs: strawberry, raspberry or passionfruit purées; frozen or on the rocks; salt or no salt. Add peach to the list of flavors for daiquiris.

Of course, there's more to Clearwater Beach than what's offered at a busy resort on one of the most heavily trafficked areas in town, but Coasters and Tommy's offer great views of the best beach in America, with quality drinks to match. Hilton Clearwater Beach is quite a nice first stop.

[email protected]; @WordsWithJG

Comments
Mario Batali on leave from ‘The Chew’ and restaurant empire after sexual harassment allegations

Mario Batali on leave from ‘The Chew’ and restaurant empire after sexual harassment allegations

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein story, chef and television personality Mario Batali offered up his views on how to combat sexual harassment in the workplace for an Oct. 30 video for Fast Company."You need a workplace free of fear, that harbors an...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Restaurant review: Let the food and outstanding cocktails at CW’s Gin Joint transport you back to the 1920s

Restaurant review: Let the food and outstanding cocktails at CW’s Gin Joint transport you back to the 1920s

TAMPAMaybe it’s the twinkling chandeliers. All skajillion of them. Or maybe it is the rhythmic syncopation of ice cubes in shiny shakers. It could be the old-timey metal dessert cart with its silver cloches and chafing dishes, or else the chummy-but-...
Published: 12/11/17
Restaurant review: 1895 Kitchen Bar Market needs to do a lot more to stand out in downtown Tampa

Restaurant review: 1895 Kitchen Bar Market needs to do a lot more to stand out in downtown Tampa

TAMPA Just a block away from CW’s Gin Joint, the folks at Urban Juice Co. have retooled, taking the historic Franklin building, one of the city’s oldest, erected in 1895, and re-envisioning it in September as 1895 Kitchen-Bar-Market, a "...
Published: 12/11/17
Starbucks’ Christmas Tree Frappuccino tastes like broken promises and Thin Mints

Starbucks’ Christmas Tree Frappuccino tastes like broken promises and Thin Mints

You thought Starbucks was waging a war on Christmas when, in 2011, the company’s holiday cups featured nutcrackers that bore a coincidental resemblance to the Guy Fawkes mask, at the time a symbol of Occupy Wall Street. You thought Starbucks was taki...
Published: 12/08/17
Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

When the weather gets cooler, we want to tuck into comfort food in our home. Doing a recipe makeover on a tasty-but-less-than-healthy dish is one of my favorite challenges. Today, I’m taking on a wintertime classic with my Lightened Shepherd’s Pie. T...
Published: 12/08/17
Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

By MELISSA D’ARABIANSummer may officially be the season of green salads, but wintertime versions have advantages that make them worth exploring. The cooler weather seasonable greens are hearty and darker green, which makes them nutrient-rich. And, th...
Published: 12/08/17
Bar review: Bru Florida Growler Bar in Odessa

Bar review: Bru Florida Growler Bar in Odessa

I’m a sucker for a small concept done well. A cozy hole-in-the-wall cocktail bar with a super-concise drink list. A rustic beer bar that only serves farmhouse brews. A region-specific wine bar with a matching food menu. Here’s a new one ...
Published: 12/07/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Former Burrito Bros. site to become Florida's first Taco Bell cantina

Former Burrito Bros. site to become Florida's first Taco Bell cantina

Some might call this adding insult to injury. Others will likely be pumped about the prospect of drinking beer at a Taco Bell. The space on Gainesville's University Avenue that for decades housed the beloved, late-night University of Florida munchie...
Published: 12/07/17
Local craft beer of the week: Ringmaster Raspberry Berliner Weisse, Big Top Brewing

Local craft beer of the week: Ringmaster Raspberry Berliner Weisse, Big Top Brewing

There’s little question about it: Tampa Bay is an attention hog when it comes to Florida craft beer. It makes sense, with the density and quality of beers coming from the area, but it’s easy to forget that there are breweries just south of the Sunshi...
Published: 12/07/17
Exploring Alaska’s Inside Passage with the adventure, expense of a cruise

Exploring Alaska’s Inside Passage with the adventure, expense of a cruise

JUNEAU, AlaskaNaturalist John Muir didn’t have Patagonia waterproof Yulex gloves Amazon Primed to him. He did not have Gore-Tex or special wicking fabrics. His socks were probably wet the whole time.These were my thoughts as I looked up from a cabin ...
Published: 12/07/17