Make us your home page

Bar review: O Cocina offers tequila flights, top cocktails in South Tampa

When I mentioned to a friend that I was headed to a restaurant to research a column, he was confused. Don't I write about bars? Well, friend, restaurants aren't just for eating in.

This is the case at O Cocina & Flights, a recent South Tampa addition that combines fresh, high-end Mexican fare with an outstanding bar. This isn't just a bar that you sit at while you wait for your table — it warrants a trip on its own.

O is a beautiful place. It's not the largest space, but it's laid out smartly, with semi-circular booths clustered around the center of the room, a partially open kitchen in back and the bar to the side. The decor is fairly typical of the current bar and restaurant scene — distressed wood and brick, exposed ceiling, oversized lightbulbs hanging in large glass globes, cement floors with etched-in succulent outlines. But the bar area steals the show, with copper stools facing a succulent-filled canopy that stretches from the back wall to the ceiling.

Behind the bar are a few familiar faces, along with an impressive stock of amaros, cordials and, especially, tequila and mezcal.

Tequila has come a long way in the past several years, but it still doesn't get the respect it deserves. Flights are a great way to showcase the range and nuance of tequila and mezcal, demonstrating that these spirits can easily go toe-to-toe with the world-class whiskies that sit beside them.

The flights at O are pre-selected and generally involve three representative spirits from a single distillery. For example, Santana's Melody flight features a blanco, reposado and añejo from Milagro's premium Select Barrel line. The Ambassador's Yardbird features three single-village mezcals from Del Maguey. Another flight — the Three Amigos — features a single tequila each from Milagro, Herradura and Casa Noble. Simply select blanco, reposado or añejo and compare the variances among these major distilleries within the same style.

If you've got the cash to spare (they can be pricey), I highly recommend going with a flight. However, if you'd prefer the cocktail route, you will not be disappointed. O's cocktail list is tip-top stuff, featuring a variety of fresh, colorful ingredients to match the restaurant's theme and decor.

I started with the O Paloma, which is a spin on the classic tequila and grapefruit soda cocktail. This one features blanco tequila, mixed with Campari, a housemade salted grapefruit cordial and prosecco. The prosecco factored in a little heavily, but I applaud the creative spin on a drink that would be so easy to phone in. Extra credit for the housemade grapefruit cordial, which is made with macerated grapefruit rind, giving the cocktail a pungent bitterness to balance the citrus.

Next was the Professor Plum, which I only partially picked because of the Clue reference. It was more due to the intriguing components: Hayman's Old Tom gin (a less-dry style of London gin), Averell Damson plum gin liqueur, lime, mint and pear purée. This is pretty original stuff. The drink was quite potent and had a subtle, unusual spiciness that I think would pair nicely with some of the bolder flavors on the food menu.

The cocktail list is anything but slapped-together. The focus on unusual and contrasting ingredients — pisco, yuzu and cardamom; curacao, guava and tomatillo; tequila, vermouth and strawberry; mezcal, tamarind and cucumber — gives the adventurous drinker plenty to work with.

This isn't just typical fancy restaurant stuff, this is a cocktail list that a dedicated cocktail bar would be proud of.

I'd be surprised if the food at O Cocina & Flights were anything less than fantastic. But I'm no food critic, and this was no dinner trip. I came for the cocktails, and I wasn't disappointed. O Cocina & Flights, while ostensibly a restaurant, is as good a bar as any.;


O Cocina & Flights

4110 Henderson Blvd., Tampa; (813) 289-0649;

The vibe: A rustic Mexican restaurant with a succulent-lined cocktail bar.

Food: Sides, appetizers, soups and salads, $5 to $15; entrees, $18 to $25; desserts, $4.50 to $7.

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $5 to $7; wine, $8 to $21 by the glass and $32 to $138 by the bottle; liquor, $8 to $28. Happy hour is from open to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, featuring $3 beers, $4 margaritas and $5 cocktails.

Specialty: The cocktail program at O Cocina is well above average, featuring a variety of fresh herbs, fruit and syrups, as well as house-made ingredients, like the salted grapefruit cordial used in the O Paloma. Of course, the flights portion of the name shouldn't be ignored: tequila and mezcal flights are available, allowing you to sample a trio of spirits from a single distillery, or three spirits of the same style — blanco, reposado or añejo — from three distilleries.

Hours: 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to midnight Friday; noon to midnight Saturday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday.

Bar review: O Cocina offers tequila flights, top cocktails in South Tampa 11/10/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2016 9:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of …

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  2. What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

    Selfie of Divya Kumar and Anand Kumar at Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert.
  3. Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador


    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25


    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24


    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]