Saturday, June 23, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Iberian Rooster has underground cool and top cocktails

The Iberian Rooster, a newish restaurant in St. Petersburg, bills itself as "colonial Portuguese fusion," and those three words, strung together and without proper historical context, appear to have been lifted from a Portlandia sketch.

I've never brushed up on my Portuguese history, but now I know that Portugal once held colonies in three continents. That explains the menu at Iberian Rooster, which, as the restaurant's website explains, is based on "the culinary cultures of Mozambique, Macau, Brazil and Goa."

It's unquestionably interesting stuff, and the menu — compiled by owner/opera singer Russell Andrade and chef/ska band Magadog frontman Ed Lowery (still not a Portlandia sketch) — is entirely unlike any other in town.

But the food is only part of the story. Iberian Rooster also has an inspired cocktail menu, as well as a basement-level lounge setting in which to enjoy it.

While the upstairs dining area and bar have the benefit of an expanded menu — including several barrel-aged cocktails and a handful of hilariously described "extreme" cocktails for the shameless drinkers among us — the downstairs lounge, or Sub-Central, has a great late-night speakeasy vibe, with the advantage of being literally underground.

Sub-Central is open until 3 a.m. nightly, and even with this knowledge, it feels seedy walking through a clearly closed restaurant after-hours and descending a staircase into a lively room of antique furniture, live music and flowing cocktails.

Many familiar cocktail bar accessories are present: caged-up Edison bulbs, row upon row of exotic amari and liqueurs, house-infused syrups in funky vessels (Erlenmeyer flasks, in this case). There's a small stage near the foot of the stairs, with a baby grand sitting beside it. I'm told the intent is to have piano accompaniment to the occasional silent film screening.

It's all very romantic, but let's get down to business. There is a small but reasonable selection of beers to choose from, as well as a very nice wine selection. The cocktails include many classics, as well as several house creations, which have no trouble standing out.

Example: Lemongrass Is for Lovers, which features lemongrass, Thai chili-infused Absolut Elyx, charred plum and colonial spice syrup, lime and a lemongrass lime wheel garnish. If you had any expectation of the cocktail menu as an afterthought to the food menu, forget it.

I don't want to focus too much on the specifics of the cocktail list because I'm going to insist that you go and see it yourself, if just for the absolutely over-the-top copy that accompanies the house drinks. This is Seinfeld's J. Peterman catalog, but for drinks (I mean that in a good way), and you really should have a look at it.

If that's not enough for you, Sub-Central even stocks a Vaportini, which is a device that allows one to vaporize spirits and inhale them, rather than drink them. By bypassing the liver, you feel the effects of the alcohol much more quickly, and it also wears off in similar fashion. Is it healthy? Who knows!

Iberian Rooster is a unique entry into St. Petersburg's dining scene, but the drinks upstairs and in Sub-Central deserve their share of the spotlight. Heck, I'd go just for the underground gin joint feel of the latter, but the fact that the cocktail program is just downright killer makes it a no-brainer.

As a final note, you may have seen Iberian Rooster in the news recently for signs in the women's restrooms regarding an "angel shot." If a woman feels unsafe or in danger (during a bad date, for example), she can order one of these at the bar. Neat gets a bartender escort to her car, rocks gets her a taxi, and with lime gets a call to the police. Hopefully no one will need to order such a drink, but good on Iberian Rooster for offering them.

[email protected]; @WordsWithJG.

   
Comments
See Datz pastry chef Alicia Wolding on Netflix’s Sugar Rush

See Datz pastry chef Alicia Wolding on Netflix’s Sugar Rush

When Alicia Wolding joined Datz as the new executive pastry chef last year her hair was rainbow — pretty much the whole ROY G BIV spectrum in cascading tresses. More recently, it’s bright purple, somewhere between iris and lilac. This is the color yo...
Published: 06/22/18
Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

By Katie WorkmanIsraeli or Mediterranean couscous are tiny balls of toasted semolina pasta that plump up when cooked into toothsome, slightly less tiny balls of pasta. They make a great base for a side or salad. You can make the couscous according to...
Published: 06/22/18
Bar review: St. Pete’s Garage is a dive with Pride

Bar review: St. Pete’s Garage is a dive with Pride

Last year’s St. Pete Pride went smoothly, despite some behind-the-scenes drama involving the decision to relocate the parade to the downtown waterfront, rather than the Grand Central District, where it had traditionally been held. After all, the Gran...
Published: 06/21/18
Local craft beer of the week: Beach Slap Piña Colada Wheat Ale from Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company

Local craft beer of the week: Beach Slap Piña Colada Wheat Ale from Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company

"Hooray, it’s summer!" exclaimed no Floridians. But if it’s summer proper and not just the usual year-round weather, you might as well embrace the heat and humidity with a trip to the beach, accompanied by some suitably refreshing beers. While you’r...
Published: 06/21/18
Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

FILIPINO FOOD: WELCOME CHISMISHave you been to the Heights Public Market at the 73,000-square-foot Armature Works yet? It’s the buzzy food market in Tampa Heights with more than a dozen vendors offering up everything from rolled ice cream to Cuban sa...
Published: 06/20/18
Here’s the skinny on the ketogenic diet: What it is, how to follow it properly

Here’s the skinny on the ketogenic diet: What it is, how to follow it properly

It started with jugs of olive oil and cans of tuna, lots of it, which my husband hauled in one day and plunked on the counter. "That’s my lunch!"That was about three months ago, and every day since there has been a new entity in our house to consider...
Published: 06/20/18
Five ideas for rainbow-themed foods to serve at your Pride party

Five ideas for rainbow-themed foods to serve at your Pride party

More than 50,000 people are estimated to attend Pride weekend in St. Petersburg, which runs Friday to Sunday. (June is LGBTQ Pride Month.) Whether you plan to march in the parade or host your own smaller gathering, we’ve selected five rainbow-themed ...
Published: 06/20/18
My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

This week I wrote about something with which I have become very familiar: the ketogenic diet. If you’re like, "Huh?" you are where I was three months ago, before my husband, Phil, embarked on the weight-loss regimen. The keto diet is a high-fat, low-...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
A perfect pick for dessert

A perfect pick for dessert

America’s Test KitchenIt might seem impossible to improve on a perfect peach, but we decided to try. We wanted a simple, warm dessert that amplified the peaches’ flavor. To achieve tender, flavorful peaches with a lightly sweet glaze, we began by tos...
Published: 06/19/18
Everything you need to know about marinating meat

Everything you need to know about marinating meat

For a lot of home cooks, marinating meat is almost as automatic as cooking the meat itself. Douse the meat in some kind of flavored liquid, pop it in the refrigerator overnight and cook it the next day.Seems straightforward enough, but there are reas...
Published: 06/19/18