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One of the views from the new Westin rooftop bar

Over the course of a couple hours on the rooftop of the new Westin hotel in downtown Sarasota, I must have uttered some variation of "Holy moly," "Wow" and "Golly" 12 dozen times. The views are that impressive, and if you haven't yet visited, do so.

The hotel—attached to the much-debated Vue and adjacent to the Sarasota bayfront—opened for business almost two weeks ago, with 255 rooms stacked in 18 floors. But it's not just for out-of-towners. The hotel includes a new restaurant, Evoq, that is open to the public, and an open-air bar near the pool on floor 19. The actual bartop is plunked down in the middle of the deck, which leaves plenty of space for wandering around and taking in the superb vistas. The roof is edged with a glass-paneled fence, with cushy chairs and couches set around the space. The crowd on a Tuesday evening includes swimmers in skimpy suits sipping while soaking, as well as pocket-squared locals toasting birthdays.

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The Westin rooftop bar's 'strawberry stormy' cocktail

Given the poolside setting, the drink menu leans toward the traditional and the sweet, with variations on Bellinis ($12), margaritas ($12) and martinis ($14). A "strawberry stormy" ($11) is a refreshing blend of rum, muddled strawberries and ginger beer. I wish it were stiffer, but it disappeared quickly in between my oohs and ahs over the view. The bar has Cigar City's Jai Alai IPA on tap; that made for a nice sequel as the sun set and the selfies snapped.

Since the closure of Ceviche's rooftop bar in 2013, I've been hankering for an urban-feeling open-to-the-public bar, where you can catch a different perspective on the city, as well as a breeze even during the sticky center of summer. The drinks here might not be the most inventive in town, but those views, man... those views... Gee willikers.

The Westin is located at 1175 N. Gulfstream Ave., Sarasota. For more info, call (941) 217-4777 or visit the hotel website.

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