The Need for Cocktails

By Megan McDonald June 24, 2011

One way to beat the heat: An ice-cold cocktail from one of Sarasota's many talented bartenders.

Perhaps this blog post should start with “It was a hot and steamy night…”

Because really, what’s new, right? It’s been so hot lately that we’re all practically suffocating. I’ve taken to proclaiming that it’s “too hot for pants”; I walked out of my spin class the other night expecting to feel some kind of breezy relief and realized that my body temperature was about equal to the evening heat.

It’s not like I’m not used to this; I’m a native Floridian. My birthday is in August. But still, sometimes this heat just feels mean.

So what is there to do, then, other than drink refreshing cocktails at cool (literally and figuratively) local bars?

I took it upon myself to do just that—and polled some coworkers about their favorite summer drinks and the best places to get them. Here’s what my detective work yielded.

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse’s happy hour came highly recommended by many; its grapefruit martini (only $4 from 4:30-6:30 p.m.) was particularly popular. The bar is especially popular with the after-work crowd—take off your blazer, roll up your sleeves and settle in for some post-office decompressing. Plus, we find that having a snack with your martini is always a good idea—so order some crispy calamari or a margherita pizza ($5 each during happy hour) to accompany it.

There’s also perennial hotspot Selva Grill, where Steve the Bartender whips up a fresh gin, grapefruit and lemongrass cocktail that never fails to quench our thirst. Plus, you can’t beat Selva’s dark, moody ambience when you want a little break from summer’s abundant sunshine. Sit right at the bar or settle into one of the soft sofas in the back of the lounge area and just relax. Bonus: we find you almost always discover someone new and interesting to chat with.

At the Epicure bar, cute Italian bartenders Andre and Alessandro could also be called the Cocktail Whisperers—seems like everything they touch turns to gold. We hear that requests for Pimm’s Cups have increased exponentially this summer, and when we tried one, we saw (well, tasted)  why. Sweet-but-not-too-sweet Pimm’s muddled with fresh mint leaves, cucumbers, and strawberries? Totally refreshing. (If Pimm’s isn’t your thing, try Bisongrass vodka with apple juice and mint, the pink grapefruit martini or the strawberry kamikaze shots.) And the great thing about Epicure is that, even on a Tuesday night in the middle of summer, the bar is always thrumming with activity and you’re bound to run into someone you know.

Pangea, right next door to trendy Lan, is the new kid on the block, and several Sarasota Magazine staffers have been singing its praises since the grand opening a few months ago. One sip from any of the drinks on the cocktail menu and you can see why—how about a rum martini made with Cristal, mixed berry puree and lemon and lime foam? Or, if rum’s not your thing, tequila over homemade peach-puree ice cubes?

My friends and I have also been known to slip on a pair of flip-flops and head to the Lido Beach Resort’s tiki bar at sunset—though it’s not particularly groundbreaking, there’s not much that beats having a pina colada or a mojito and watching the sun dip below the horizon. Afterward, head over to the public beach and walk along the water’s edge in the pink glow of the fading evening light. Totally worth it.

We know there are many other great drinks to be had in this town—mai tais at the Bahi Hut, daiquiris at Daiquiri Deck, craft beer (if cocktails aren’t your thing) at Mr. Beery’s, to name just a few—and that’s where you come in: Tell us your most freshing, must-have summer cocktail.

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