A quick stop over in Jacksonville, in particular Grape and Grain Exchange left Bokeh Studio and I hankering for Craft Cocktails in our hometown Orlando. On a quest to discover the best of O-town sips, we embarked on a journey, focusing only on stand-alone bars (no drool worthy bites in this episode of Primlani Kitchen).
Since we are equal opportunity drinkers, we left the playing field fair by requesting these skilled bar maestros to make us one specialty cocktail that represents the personality of either the bar or the bartender. Here are the results in random order of the hottest cocktail bars, staffed with excellent craftsmen, in and around Orlando, at least in our humble view.
The Matador: 724 Virginia Dr, Orlando, FL 32803. Open daily 7pm – 2am.
Sporting Bohemian and vintage character, Matador resides next to Santiago’s Bodega in case the munchies hit you.
Cocktail created for the upcoming Fernet competition Venus Infurs: Fernet Banca, Honey, Lemon, Conttrato Bitter, Grapefruit Shrub. A household name in Italy and a cult hit abroad, Fernet Branca is one of Italy’s complex digestive bitter liqueur (amaro) with 27 herbs and in addition flowers, herbs, roots and plants that imparts a unique combination of sweet, bitter, and spice flavors. Between the Fernet and grapefruit shrub the Venus Infurs showcased both tart and sweet flavors, stimulating the appetite while quenching our thirst. A refreshing initiation to our cocktail crawl.
The Courtesy: 114 N Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801. Open daily 5pm – 2am. (weekends special times).
This L shaped bar, smack in the middle of downtown Orlando, is the place to experience cocktail mastery. “India’s Inca“. Tumeric infused Kappa Pisco, lemon, Giffard banane liqueur, egg white, Peychauds bitters. Glorious soaked in sunlight color from the Indian spice turmeric, rich in anti-oxidant, magnificent banana liqueur, Muscat based Chilean Pisco, and Peychauds, a staple ingredient in New Orleans classics such as Sazerac and Vieux Carre, adds layer of sweetness and Christmas baking spices. Courtesy Bar clearly aspires to be a five-star bar: imaginative in its cocktails and exacting in its standards.
Blake and Anna, two of Central Florida’s cocktail maestro’s are constantly evolving, honing their skills to create balanced, flavorful, beautifully crafted drinks. Gringos Locos and their Double D’s is recommended for fueling before or after your cocktail crawl.
Hanson’s Shoe Repair: 27 E Pine St, Orlando, FL 32801. Open daily 8pm – 2am.
A much needed respite in the concrete jungle of Orlando, embellished with glimmering lights and an open air patio, Hanson’s Shoe Repair speakeasy easily deserves the most romantic bar accolade. Hanson’s makes up for size with it’s larger than life character, live music, and killer cocktails that meet the highest quality standards. Jaryd created a stunning summer sipper ideal for replenishing in our blistering Florida summers.
Herman’s Loan Office: 22 W. Pine Street, Orlando, FL 32801. Open Tuesday to Saturday 8pm – 2pm.
Little prepares you for the striking and chic interiors of Herman’s, a far cry from the alley one walks by. The sister property of Hanson’s Shoe Repair, has all the components required for a literary haunt befitting the likes of Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill; you get the point.
Root Down – Ramazzotti, Art in the Age Root liqueur, Luxardo Maraschino, lemon, Demerara sugar, egg white and nutmeg. Unlike it’s name sake ‘root beer’, Herman’s Loan Office popular dark and complex cocktail showcasing prominent sweet orange flavored Italian bitter Ramazzoti, a true pre-temperance alcohol root tea from Philadelphia, Luxardo Maraschino the rolex of sour Marasca cherries found almost exclusively on Croatia’s coast, throw in some sugar and acid for good measure, the concoction is svelte and downright delicious. Logan certainly made a believer out of me.
For simpler and intimate cocktail experience, check out the Treehouse and Woods. Both require a certain amount of caution walking up the steep steps.
The Treehouse: 68 E Pine St, Orlando, FL 32801. Open Tuesday to Sunday 8pm – 2pm.
The Woods: 49 N Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801. Open daily 5pm – 2am.
Lil Indies: 1036 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803. Open daily 7:30pm – 2am.
Can’t decide between cocktails or coffee? Snax Appeal – Rum, Vita Luna Cold Brew, Lemon, Coconut Milk, Demerara was aptly our last call or shall we say stop at Lil Indies. With each sip we discovered sparks of spice accompanied by jolts of caffeine and sweetness of coconut.
If it was not for the American accent floating in the air, I could easily find myself transported in the tropical islands of Caribbean, tapping my feet to the beat of Reggae while leisurely sipping locally inspired rum cocktail. At midnight, Lil Indies was buzzing as the hipster bar in town.
Park Social was closed the evening of our cocktail crawl and Guesthouse a tad to slow to fulfill our needs.
Even though our goal was to discover only drink establishments, we can not resist a shout-out to few central Florida restaurants that not only provide stellar service and drool worthy dishes, their bar cares about it’s cocktails and you can taste it in each drink – Capa at Four Seasons Hotel, Prato and Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, Osprey tavern in Baldwin Park, Highball & Harvest at the Ritz Carlton.
In case you ware wondering what made the cut? These bars are doing justice to the over used “craft cocktail” with skill and innovations; seeking inspiration from the simplest or hard to find ingredients; constantly honing their skills to not just follow but be the trend in Central Florida.
Each boasting it’s own unique personality and vibe to cater from the struggling artist to the wealthy and professional. Orlando might be lagging behind in the culinary scene, it certainly is a worthy adversary in the race for the best bars in America.
Until next, have a delicious day!! PS: Be safe, designated driver or uber should be your mantra.
Loving these drool-worthy photographs? Contact The Primlani Kitchen to discuss your food photography options.