Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Florida Cane Distillery is new taste of Ybor

This one's a little different. That's good, though — I like different, especially when it comes to Ybor City, which can be a bit one-speed at times.

The Florida Cane Distillery started out in a modest east Tampa business park — the kind that looks like outdoor-access storage units, but for businesses — shipping out its first batch of Florida-sourced, small-batch sugarcane vodka made from a tiny, six-column still in 2012.

Earlier this month, the Florida Cane Distillery held its grand opening on 15th Street in Ybor — in the space that used to belong to Row Boat, previously home of the best falafel in Ybor City. (I still miss it.) The new space is twice the size of the old one and now includes a tasting room, microdistillery and barrel room.

But let me slow down a bit and explain what these folks are up to. The Florida Cane Distillery is the creation of Lee Nelson and Pat O'Brien, two distillers who wanted to create a line of spirits made entirely with locally sourced ingredients. Marketed as "100% Florida-distilled," the ensuing line of vodkas were indeed a home-state affair.

The vodka base, which is typically made with grain or potatoes, is instead made with sugarcane, an ingredient more commonly associated with rum. The flavored varieties often include the source in their names: Weeki Wachee Watermelon, Okeechobee Cherry, Orlando Orange, and Plant City Strawberry, for example. There are 11 vodkas in all, including the unflavored version, and everything contained in each bottle — from the sugarcane, to the fruit, to the water — is from Florida.

More recently, the distillery released a line of four flavored, 109-proof moonshines (corn-based, un-aged whiskey), as well as Tamiami Gin, which is flavored with juniper, cucumber, coriander and tangerine. The new barrel room space will allow the distillery to work on barrel-aged gin in the future, as well as whiskey and rum.

So here's the cool and also slightly weird part: Florida laws forbid the selling of spirits at a distillery, so the Florida Cane Distillery, with its prime, foot-traffic-heavy location and cozy, minimalist tasting room, can't sell you drinks if you happen to stop in during your next trip to Ybor.

Instead, you're welcome to try free samples of the various Florida Cane Distillery products, and if you find one you like, bottles sell for $25 each. Just please don't drink them in the back alley.

Although the tasting-room experience is admittedly quite different from its analogue in the beer world — there, you can legally drink as many 10 percent imperial stouts as you'd like — it's one that's entirely worth a trip, especially if you plan on making the rounds in Ybor, as many do during a typical visit. The nearby Bernini, Tequilas and Carne restaurants all serve speciality cocktails featuring the Florida Cane Distillery's Ybor-made vodkas.

If you go, check the website in advance for tour times every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tours include samples of vodka, gin and moonshine, as well as a quick walk-through of the distillery and recipes for cocktails you can make at home. I was surprised at how much I didn't know about the vodka-making process, and I'm sure you will be, too. I've unfairly dismissed vodka as a "characterless" spirit in the past; learning about it in depth has given me a new appreciation for the stuff.

Starting in the summer, there are plans to offer classes on distilling as well. In the meantime, the Florida Cane Distillery represents an unusual type of bar experience in Ybor. You can't hang out for hours sipping a broad range of cocktails, but you can take a peek into Florida's relatively new craft distillery scene, sample the goods, and take a spirit made locally and of exclusively Florida ingredients home to enjoy later, maybe after hitting up a couple of other Ybor bars and breweries.

I'll miss the falafel, but I'm excited to see what comes out of this place.

[email protected]; @WordsWithJG

   
Comments
Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Published: 04/25/18
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar.
Published: 04/25/18
The best airports around the country for food and drink

The best airports around the country for food and drink

It was a revolutionary idea: Have travelers’ experience of a city begin when they land at the airport. Instead of McDonald’s and Panda Express, why not have restaurants that reflect the culture and breadth of a city’s offerings? San Francisco Interna...
Published: 04/25/18
Seared tuna salad is quite a catch

Seared tuna salad is quite a catch

A satisfying salad of tuna and beans is a Mediterranean favorite, often served as a meal in warm weather. In my favorite version, the main ingredients — rich tuna and creamy beans — are accented with red wine vinegar, tomato and onion, finished with ...
Published: 04/25/18
Top places to bring your dog in Tampa Bay, from breweries to baseball games

Top places to bring your dog in Tampa Bay, from breweries to baseball games

Dogs are more welcome in public than ever these days. Bars and restaurants are making themselves more pet-friendly, and you can find weekly "yappy hours" happening at spots all over Tampa Bay. Add to that a healthy number of dog-approved events and ...
Published: 04/24/18
Updated: 04/25/18
Drunk in love with banana bread

Drunk in love with banana bread

I have a thing about bananas. They have to be perfectly yellow, with a light hint of green. And they absolutely cannot have a spot of brown on them. At all. Brown bananas make me gag. My window of tasty opportunity is small, so I love to bake with ov...
Published: 04/24/18
Cooking Challenge: Making a stovetop steak for the first time

Cooking Challenge: Making a stovetop steak for the first time

Raw meat terrifies me. Growing up, I was the kid who avoided cookie dough because it could give me salmonella poisoning. Just imagine how I feel about a slab of bloody steak. So for my latest cooking challenge, I’m diving into the deep end and making...
Published: 04/24/18
One wine writer asks wine lovers to reflect on their standards

One wine writer asks wine lovers to reflect on their standards

Let’s assume that you are dedicated to drinking wine. It’s your go-to, your default, your everlasting love. Wine is part of your life, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.With that assumption in mind, let’s consider a handful of questions to find ...
Published: 04/25/18
Taste test: vanilla wafers

Taste test: vanilla wafers

When it comes to cookies, our judges are all in. When it comes to vanilla wafers, most of them admitted to reaching for the familiar Nilla Wafers in the bright yellow box. Surprisingly, they liked the well-known brand least of the seven wafers sample...
Published: 04/23/18