Sunday, February 25, 2018
Bars & Spirits

These summer cocktail trends are making a splash in Tampa Bay

There are few things more satisfying than a refreshing cocktail on a warm summer day. It's no surprise, then, that summer-themed cocktails provide such fertile ground for creative bartenders.

If there's any unifying characteristic of summertime cocktails, it's the usage of very fresh ingredients. Colorful fruit, fresh-squeezed juices and just-picked herbs are common partners to a wide variety of spirits. Vodka, gin, brandy, whiskey, rum, tequila, aperitifs, fortified wines — all can be thirst-quenching when prepared with summer in mind.

What's a great summer cocktail, anyway? Is it an iconic favorite, like the margarita, pina colada or daiquiri; or is it a semi-obscure classic, like the Pimm's Cup or an Americano? Spiked lemonade, or a fruit-and-herb-infused cooler? Is there room for whiskey? Yes to all of the above — that's the beauty of this category of drink.

At Clearwater's Opal Sands Resort, director of food and beverage Justin Burk has created a lineup of cocktails perfectly suited to the season. The setting is Sea-Guini, the resort's sea-and-Italian-cuisine-inspired restaurant, offering views of the beach in a modern, upscale dining area and lounge.

Burk's cocktails — like the fruity-floral Raspberry Time, which uses thyme from the restaurant's hanging garden — offer a glimpse into some of the current summer cocktail trends, from the use of fresh berries, handpicked herbs and freshly squeezed citrus to beach-friendly spins on classics and visually striking concoctions involving exotic infusions.

These drinks are evidence of a growing trend that is expanding the flavors associated with summer. Spirits as diverse as gin, rum, mezcal and vodka are now frequently featured, with flavor profiles ranging from light and fruity to sweet and sour to smoky and even spicy.

Edison: Food+Drink Lab in Tampa regularly updates its cocktail list to include these kind of seasonal flavors and ingredients. Bar manager Shelby Goelz offers a lineup of 10 house cocktails that include a variety of exotic spirits — ever tried aloe-based liqueur? — as well as drinks that focus on local ingredients, like the Tropic-ana Tipple, which utilizes Old St. Pete Vodka and simple syrup infused with Jamaican Ruby Red tea from Davis Islands' TeBella.

"We try and stay seasonal as often as possible, as well as do our own juicing and our own infusions," Goelz said. There's also much attention placed on attractive garnishes. The Tropic-ana Tipple, for example, includes a sprig of fresh mint carefully wrapped in a grapefruit peel. "The servers asked, 'Are we going to do this garnish every time?' Yep, every time."

The Bends in downtown St. Petersburg is always dependable when it comes to seasonal cocktails. These drinks are piloted frequently, sometimes even on a daily basis. Two of the new additions for summer are the fantastically named Goth Summer and the Soft and Wet, the latter of which debuted at a Prince-themed party following the musician's death in April.

Co-owners Craig Dragoonis and Matt Kaye take cues from the classic tiki drinks of the '50s and '60s, stacking bold, tropical flavors atop a range of spirits, resulting in highly sippable but surprisingly potent drinks. Some of these creations involve surprising pairings, going beyond riffs on the classics and into wholly new territory.

"I'm inspired by tiki culture, and I love researching other tropical climate areas' cocktails," Kaye said. "We encourage our bartenders to come up with cocktails that excite them personally. It makes for a more eclectic menu."

Whereas yesterday's summer cocktails may have come from a frozen drink dispenser, today's feature a refreshing level of sophistication. These are drinks that can go to the dinner table or a dance floor just as easily as a poolside lounge chair.

Contact Justin Grant at [email protected] Follow @WordsWithJG.

     
Comments
This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

FIELD OF GREEN: COLLARD FEST On Saturday you can devote your whole day to the beauty of collard greens. Well, that’s the jumping off point. Collards are the "central ingredient" at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival at St. Petersburg’...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
Explore mayo's upscale friend: aioli

Explore mayo's upscale friend: aioli

Mayonnaise does not have to be pedestrian. Mayonnaise, like life, is what you make of it. The link below is devoted to America’s love-hate relationship with the white stuff in the jar. Yours truly provides a defense for using it as a cooking a...
Published: 02/21/18
In defense of mayonnaise

In defense of mayonnaise

It weighed heavy, spread across my soul like a creamy white burial shroud. I would never admit it, not in a million years. My husband wondered, what was on the chicken? He ate it willingly, then enthusiastically. "I can never tell you." I sat quie...
Published: 02/21/18
Hide the cauliflower in this Mushroom and Cauliflower Frittata recipe

Hide the cauliflower in this Mushroom and Cauliflower Frittata recipe

Do I like cauliflower as much as the next guy? Well, no. Itís one of the cruciferous vegetables whose cooked aroma sends me running for the exit. But the oh-so-trendy riced variety, stirred into this frittata mix, works for me.Hereís why: Used raw, i...
Published: 02/20/18
Drink of the week: the Holy Snail Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Loire Valley

Drink of the week: the Holy Snail Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Loire Valley

With the weather turning toward spring, so do our appetites ó from hearty comfort food to lighter, fresher flavors.That goes for wine as well, and one lively choice is the Holy Snail Sauvignon Blanc 2016 from the Joel Delaunay winery in the Loire Val...
Published: 02/20/18
Taste test: canned peeled tomatoes

Taste test: canned peeled tomatoes

On a recent cold night, my son asked for a bowl of tomato soup. I was preparing to run to the grocery store for a can or carton of soup to heat up when I realized I had 17 cans of whole tomatoes on the counter, ready for my tasting panel to sample. I...
Published: 02/20/18
Review: Platt Street Borough is casual Tampa dining with high standards

Review: Platt Street Borough is casual Tampa dining with high standards

TAMPAIt wasnít that long ago that Platt Street was a bit of a conundrum for restaurateurs: Not exactly downtown, without the dense auto traffic of Kennedy, and far enough off the South Howard main drag that it didnít entirely qualify as part of SoHo....
Published: 02/19/18
Bar review: Four Green Fields at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Bar review: Four Green Fields at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

At most Irish pubs, guests will encounter some combination of shamrock and leprechaun imagery, Guinness signs and possibly Dropkick Murphys playing on the jukebox. Thatís about what I expected a bit more than a decade ago when I first visited Tampaís...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/22/18
Local-ish craft beer of the week: Two Tickets, Gravity Brewlab/Evil Twin Brewing

Local-ish craft beer of the week: Two Tickets, Gravity Brewlab/Evil Twin Brewing

Call it local-ish. Miamiís Gravity Brewlabs is four hours south of the bay area by car, but it could be closer on any given day, seeing as how it has operated for years as a "gypsy" brewery, partnering with local brick-and-mortars to produce its line...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/22/18
The Reading Roomís Lauren Macellaro and Columbiaís Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

The Reading Roomís Lauren Macellaro and Columbiaís Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

Itís almost a sick joke. On the morning after Valentineís Day, the second-busiest restaurant day of the year, chefs all over the country are hauling themselves out of bed early to find out: Did I make it onto this yearís James Beard Foundation list o...
Published: 02/15/18