Bar review: The Library has top-shelf stuff

The Library is a study in cocktail curation
Published February 28

There’s a Japanese expression called tsundoku, which refers to the act of collecting books but never getting around to reading them. That hits a little close to home. What can I say? I love being surrounded by books, even if half of them remain on my to-read list.

A more practical alternative is visiting the library, which is a favorite pastime of mine, right up there with checking out new bars. Somehow, in all my years of frequenting both establishments, it never occurred to me that the two could make good partners.

Yet, this is close to what I found at The Library (formerly The Peabody), a thoroughly quaint bar and restaurant located at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (really) near downtown St. Petersburg.

Originally named after the George Peabody Library, a Baltimore institution opened in the late 19th century that serves as the research library for Johns Hopkins University, The Library is the latest from Allison Casper Adams and Blake Casper, the owner-and-sibling duo behind Tampa’s Oxford Exchange, a design-heavy restaurant and complex of shops.

The understated, old-school aesthetic that Oxford Exchange is known for has translated to The Library in an abridged form, turning an unlikely hospital restaurant into a cozy, upscale food-and-drink outlet that feels, well, like hanging out in a library.

From the dining area, this library seems almost functional, with rows of hardcover books in various shades of blue lining shelves on a faux balcony level. More shelves of blue books serve as room dividers, adding contrast to the black-and-white checkered floors and the wood paneling while tying into the navy fabric of the booths and wingback chairs.

I pulled up at the bar and had a look at the drink list, which features a brief but international variety of beers, combined with 30-odd wines ranging from California red blends to top-shelf Champagne. There also is local tea from TeBella and coffee from Buddy Brew.

Whiskey seemed a little more on-brand, so I perused the “Editor’s Picks” of high-end spirits, which included more than a few excellent Scotches and Cognacs, along with some surprises, like Pappy Van Winkle 15- and 23-year-old bourbon. These rare finds are kept in stock until guests drink the bottle dry — an inevitability that comes with pricing them under $30 and $40, respectively. Do I even need to mention that both are currently out of stock?

I settled on a Daisy Miller, named after the novella from Henry James. It starts with Four Roses bourbon, mixed with Monin hibiscus syrup and lemon juice in a Collins glass, topped with soda and garnished with a lemon wheel and Filthy maraschino cherry. It’s one of seven house cocktails, all featuring a reference either literary or Baltimore-based.

For example, the Fitzgerald — named after F. Scott, who was known to enjoy gin cocktails — features Manifest barrel-aged gin, lemon juice and bitters, while the Pimlico Spritz — Peychaud’s Apertivo, sparkling wine, grapefruit juice and soda — is named after a famous neighborhood in Baltimore. The house manhattan is called Mannahatta, after the Walt Whitman poem, and the Moscow mule is known as the Captain Ramius Mule, after the sub captain from The Hunt for Red October.

The ground floor of a children’s hospital seems an unlikely a place for a neat little cocktail bar, but I’m not one to argue, especially when presented with such the fantastic execution of the concept at The Library.

— jg@saintbeat.com

The Library

600 Fifth Street S, St. Petersburg. (727) 369-9969;

thelibrarystpete.com

The vibe: An elegant, library-themed bar and restaurant.Food: Sides, salads, sandwiches and small plates, $2-$18; entrées, $15-$36; desserts, $5-$8.

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $6-$7; wine, $9-$15 by the glass and $27-$150 by the bottle; liquor, $8-$12, with some premium spirits priced higher.

Specialty: Have a look at the house cocktails, which are named after various literary figures and their works. For example, try the Daisy Miller, named after the 1878 novella by Henry James — it combines Four Roses bourbon with Monin hibiscus syrup and lemon juice, poured tall and topped with a splash of soda, a lemon wedge and a Filthy maraschino cherry.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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