Daytime drinking in Florida can seem like a physical challenge.
Oppressive heat — with little smog protection from the sun — makes a quality frozen drink an inspired choice for quenching your twin thirsts for relief and sweet inebriation.
But, honestly, how many times can you order a margarita, rum runner or pina colada before you're bored by it all?
The search for a creative and delicious frozen drink began at Hogan's Beach in Tampa, at the outdoor bars in the middle of the day. At happy hour, Hogan's had three offerings, the Category 5 (Myers' Platinum rum, Gosling's Black Seal rum, pina colada mix, pineapple juice, passion fruit syrup and pomegranate syrup), Grape Berry Bomb (Three Olives vodka, Red Bull, grape and raspberry puree) and the Tropical Storm (10 Cane rum, Hiram Walker banana liqueur, orange juice, pineapple juice, grenadine and fresh banana).
Though all three were roughly the same shade of pink, the tastes varied wildly. All three were light on the alcohol aftertaste but the Red Bull in the Grape Berry Bomb will certainly stick around on your tongue long after your drink is done. The most refreshing was the Tropical Storm, with just enough of a pineapple juice kick to make you feel like you're actually at the beach.
The next stop had a decidedly different feel. The Canopy Rooftop Lounge at the Birchwood Hotel in St. Petersburg looks like someplace the rich kids would hang out at on The O.C. Couches under canopies, shrubbery and grass flooring sit away from the outdoor black granite bar with a view looking out toward the St. Pete Pier — and if you squint, Apollo Beach.
The frozen drinks were no less refined. The Berries & Cream (Bacardi Dragon Berry rum, fresh blueberries, strawberries, Luxardo cherries and vanilla bean ice cream) is a delicious take on the alcoholic milkshake but not too thick, making it a great summertime treat. The Cucumber Honeydew Freeze (Hanger Mandarin Blossom vodka, local honey, lemon juice, lime juice, fresh honeydew melon and peeled cucumber) sounds healthy enough and tastes like a fruit salad in a glass. But once you're at the bottom of the cup, you'll remember there was alcohol in this thing. Be thankful to the bartending gods for your buzz and internal temperature drop.
At the Daiquiri Shak in St. Pete Beach, the offerings are what you'd expect — different drinks pre-mixed with syrupy flavors. Hiding in the list of cleverly named drinks that range from "Get Bent" to "Fubar" is a delightful summer treat called a Gidget (Banana, a Bushwacker, and Cafe Lolita coffee liqueur). The coffee liqueur floater is what sets this petite blond apart from the pack. Combined with the banana flavor, its taste never lets you forget there's a beach nearby.
Nestled in the heart of Dunedin's Main Street is a major development on the frozen-drink landscape: the Wine Slushie. Inside the quiet, wooden tasting room of Stirling Tropical Wines, customers can have any wine of their choosing blended into a slushie. The pina colada-flavored slushie was best paired with tropical fruit wines such as pineapple or mango. But the options are endless. And the complimentary tasting policy means you can find your perfect blend before you order an entire 16-ounce drink.
It's safe to say bartenders in Tampa Bay are working hard to solve the conundrum of comfortably getting drunk on the surface of the sun. These chillers are a small slice of what's out there waiting to give you brain freeze and a hangover.
— What's your favorite frozen drink? Tell us at [email protected] or tweet us at @tbtnewspaper with the hashtag #tampabaydrinks.