The spiders are hung in the cobwebs with care over at Pangea Alchemy Lab in downtown Sarasota. Tombstones and skulls blend seamlessly into the cocktail lounge’s secret laboratory aesthetic, and owner and master mixologist Brad Coburn is busy behind the bar scheming up whimsical libations to treat customers with this Halloween season. A splash of salt tincture. A pinch of chocolate. A healthy pour of whiskey.
While it may seem like mad science, Coburn’s mixology has been acknowledged on a national scale. In 2014, he impressed judges' palettes and was named "America's Most Imaginative Bartender" by GQ magazine. At Pangea, you can see Coburn's work in action: in addition to serving six signature drinks, there are a rotating selection of themed concoctions. Each craft cocktail is made with specialty infusions, syrups, tinctures or creams created by Coburn and his team.
Even though the lounge is still practicing social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Coburn’s ultimate goal is to “make spirits that lift spirits.” October is a special time of year for the barkeep, who says, “Halloween for me is about getting rid of inhibition. Getting to play dress-up, enjoy candy and have fun. Just getting to be a kid again.” This year’s cocktails are exactly that, inspired by memories of favorite pillowcase treats after a long night of trick-or-treating.
So what’s on the “adult candy bag” menu this year?
There’s the “Payday,” a salted caramel old-fashioned made with Irish whiskey infused with Payday chocolate bars. Blended together in the “Nobody Better Lay a Finger” are brown-butter-infused Barbados rum and Butterfinger-infused sweet vermouth, polished off with a butter foam. In the “Swedish Fish,” the signature red gummy is infused into vodka then combined with aquavit, mead and hibiscus tea before being served in a decorative blood bag. For fans of pumpkin spice, there’s the “Token Pumpkin Drink,”a spicy pumpkin eggnog with rum and bitters whipped cream.
Want to try experimenting with your own candy creations? Coburn gives us a crash course in practicing cocktail alchemy at home.
Halloween Candy Sour Cocktail
Prep time: Three days plus 15 minutes.
Makes one drink.
Combine 1 liter of vodka with 2 ounces of your favorite fruity candy. Examples are gummy bears, Jolly Ranchers, Skittles, sour worms, Starbursts or jellybeans. Let stand for three days, agitating daily.
Combine in a cocktail shaker over ice:
2 oz. of your infused vodka
1 oz. fresh lemon or lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup
Shake well and serve in a chilled martini glass with a garnish of choice.
Pro tip: You don’t have to stop at vodka once you’ve mastered the sour. Try combining whiskey and Red Hots to make your own cinnamon "giggle water," or try one of Coburn’s faves: gin and Sour Patch Kids. The world is your candy cocktail!
Pangea Alchemy Lab is located at 1564 Main St. Hours of operation Wednesday and Thursday, 6 p.m.-12a.m., Friday and Saturday 6 p.m.-2 a.m.