Bar Necessities

Distilleries, drinks and do-it-yourself recipes for your next night in.

Been to every craft brewery in town twice already? Yeah, same. And we love them, but what if you’re just not a beer drinker? Or you’ve already tried everything on the menu? Enter: distilleries. Think craft breweries for hard liquors that draw on local ingredients and inspirations to make one-of-a-kind creations. We’ll tell you where to find them, what to drink when you get there and plenty of ways to take your own drinks to the next level.

Drive-able Distilleries

Local and nearby watering holes for your next liquor-tasting adventure. And don’t forget to bring a bottle home when you’re done! You know, for your home bar.

FishHawk Spirits

Ocala residents know the nearby springs and waterways make for beautiful scenery, but for FishHawk Spirits, those waters are the base for artisan farm-to-bottle whiskey made with ingredients from local Florida producers. The Marion 106 Black is named, of course, after Marion County and is a tangerine brandy flavored with blackberries and American white oak. In fact, more than 60 tangerines go into each bottle.

FishHawk also offers an absinthe, an amber-hued rum and a blueberry vodka made with Island Grove berries. Last year, the distillery expanded to include a tasting room and retail store in downtown Gainesville, and their flavors are still true to their roots: Every blend has at least one Florida ingredient inside.

Tours available by appointment only at the Dunnellon location.

16350 SW 20th Lane, Ocala
21 SW 2nd Street, Gainesville
(352) 445-1292

St. Augustine Distillery

If you thought your dream of drinking small-batch, hand-crafted spirits in a renovated ice plant built over 100 years ago would never come true, think again. This distillery makes their liquors using locally grown sugar cane, wheat, corn, citrus and more, like the Florida Double Cask Bourbon, which includes 60 percent regional corn and 22 percent regional wheat.

Don’t worry bourbon haters, there’s something here for you, too. Try the coconut-y, vanilla-y pot distilled rum or the New World Gin, named Best Craft Gin in America last year by USA Today. No matter your drink of choice, you can find something to love at St. Augustine Distillery.

112 Riberia Street, St. Augustine
(904) 825-4962

Copper Bottom Craft Distillery

Silver rum and vodka are the staples at Copper Bottom in Holly Hill.

Boats with copper bottoms were the most reliable, fail proof and longest lasting in the British navy during the American Revolution, and this distillery is determined to keep all those qualities close to heart on their craft spirit journey. The signature rum boasts flavors of butterscotch and vanilla, while the award-winning vodka has a clean, refreshing finish thanks to unrefined cane sugar. Stop by, take a free tour and try something new.

998 N Beach Street, Holly Hill
(386) 267-5104

Winter Park Distilling Company

Founded in 2010 by two Winter Park natives, this distillery loves serving family and friends around town and strangers interested in the unique flavors they create. Their silver rum is named for a legendary island adrift in the middle of a local lake. Dog Island rum features flavors like florals and almonds, and it becomes Dog Island Beer Barrel Aged Rum with notes of coffee and chocolate after it ages in bourbon barrels. And those are just a few of their offerings—we’ll let you taste the rest for yourselves.

1288 N Orange Avenue, Winter Park
(407) 801-2714

Bar Cart Basics

What’s the deal with bar carts, anyway? They first appeared on Pinterest as clever mobile storage for small apartment dwellers to wheel in and out of the way for parties. Since then, they’ve become the must-have beverage storage solution, probably because they’re both pretty to look at and can find a corner to fit into in any home. Interested in creating your own? Here’s what you’ll need to stock it with.

The Cart

Yeah, duh, we know. But when you’re eyeing a little gold cart, consider if it meets your functional needs before buying. When shopping around, keep in mind how much storage space you’ll need for the amount of bottles and glassware you’ll want to store. If there are shelves, measure to make sure your tallest bottles will still fit properly. Oh, and be sure to select a cart with one top surface to use as a drink preparation area, free of clutter.

The Bottles

A truly versatile bar cart should have one of every type of liquor: vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey and vermouth for making martinis. With all of these in your arsenal, you’ll have drinks to serve neat and liquor to start classic cocktails like negronis, cosmopolitans, margaritas and more. If you’re more into wine, have a selection of reds and whites prepared for different meals and occasions. If your space is limited, just choose three or four staples you know you’ll use and that can be used in more than one kind of cocktail.

The Mixers

To make almost any cocktail, you’ll need at least one mixer to complete the recipe. Stock some of the most commonly used to ensure you’ve got every guest’s go-to drink just a few stirs or shakes away.

You’ll need…

  • Cranberry juice
  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Orange juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Grenadine
  • Sour mix
  • Club soda or tonic
  • Cola

The Tools

Of course, no bartender would be caught dead without the proper accouterments, and no bar cart tender should either.

You’ll need…

Cocktail shaker for cocktails that should be shaken, not stirred

Mixing glass for cocktails that should be stirred, never shaken

Jiggers for measuring ounces of alcohol quickly and easily

Bar spoon for mixing and layering drinks—even in tall glasses, normal spoons don’t dare enter

Muddler for mashing flavors out of ingredients and into drinks

Strainer for straining ice out of a drink as you’re pouring to serve

Ice bucket for, you know, ice storage

Cutting board for limes, lemons, herbs and anything else you decide to add to your mixology repertoire

The Glassware

You’ll need a few differently shaped types of glasses to properly serve a variety of drinks, and you should base your glassware on the alcohol types you intend to serve. If you prefer whiskey-based cocktails, you’ll need a sturdy set of rocks glasses, and martini glasses are designed for gin-based cocktails.

You’ll need…

  • Martini glasses
  • Rocks glasses
  • Highball glasses
  • Coupe glasses
  • Wine glasses

To avoid your cart becoming a cupboard, rocks glasses, coupe glasses and martini glasses are ideal for all the most common cocktails. Sticking to these three should keep your cup clutter to a minimum and your cocktail game at 100 percent.

The Extras

Bitters, syrups and liqueurs are to drinks what sprinkles are to ice cream—they add the personality. Some of the most well-liked, commonly used ones to keep on-hand include:

You’ll need…

  • Orange liqueur
  • Coffee liqueur
  • Irish cream liqueur
  • Simple syrup
  • Mint syrup
  • Aromatic bitters
  • Dry vermouth

DIY Drinks

Now that your bar cart is properly outfitted, here are a few staples you should know how to make, and how to mix them up juuust a little.

Old Fashioned

The classic: Two ounces bourbon, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, a few dashes Angostura bitters and the signature orange peel garnish.

The twist: Swap those standard ingredients for flavored ones. Bitters come in a variety of fruity and floral flavors, and brandy or rye can easily be used in place of bourbon.

Gin and Tonic

The classic: Two ounces gin to three ounces tonic water, and drop in a lime wedge.

The twist: Muddle a favorite ingredient in the bottom of the glass before pouring the tonic and gin over top. Think blackberries or a slice of lemon and mint leaves.


The classic: Four ounces tequila, two ounces Cointreau, 1.5 ounces fresh lime juice and one very salty rim.

The twist: Just about any fruit or vegetable adds a new layer of flavor to a margarita without making it weird. Consider watermelon jalapeno, cucumber cilantro or blood orange.


On Trend Ingredients

Just like the food scene, mixology goes through plenty of trends and phases. Check out what’s hot right now, and how can you incorporate it into your next dinner party’s drinks.

Tea time: Instead of fruit juice, tonic or soda, hipster bartenders ‘round the world are serving cocktails with freshly brewed tea as the star mixer. Some easy combos include green tea mojitos, iced black tea and lemon vodka or sweet tea and bourbon (which could be the most Southern drink of all time).

Fermented goodness: In 2017, alcohol isn’t the only thing that gets better with age. Fermented drinks, like kombucha, are becoming popular mixers just like tea. Who knew a stiff drink could be good for your gut?

Three’s a crowd: Remember the complicated cocktails of yesteryear? You know, the prickly pear mojitos with muddled mint topped with pineapple chutney and three paper umbrellas? Flavor-heavy drinks had their day, and most trend-setting bars and restaurants are making a return to simple drinks with three ingredients or fewer. A good rule of thumb is to choose a spirit and two complementary flavors and build a simple but delicious drink from there.

Gin and juice: Or anything with juice, really. Pressed juices have been trending in the health world for years, and mixologists have begun incorporating those green goddess blends into their drinks. It may look strange sipping a green cocktail, but don’t knock it ‘til you try it, right?


Make Your Mark

Whether it’s a wedding, a dinner party or a family gathering, creating a signature cocktail is the perfect way to add a memorable touch for your guests. All it takes is a little forethought on the flavors and colors that match the theme of the day.

Start with the star ingredient: Let’s say it’s fresh apple cider for an autumn gathering or champagne to ring in a new year. Choosing a primary flavor will keep first-time cocktail creators from being overwhelmed by the options.

Don’t get crazy with the combinations: Classic cocktails—a martini, gin and tonic, an Old Fashioned—have just a few, quality ingredients. Besides, fewer ingredients means your cocktails are cheaper and easier to make in large batches. Don’t make it so complex you can’t recreate it easily.

Consider including flavors of the moment: Herb garnishes and freshly brewed tea are trendy on bar menus this year. Passionfruit tea complements margaritas well, and a little basil muddled in the bottom of a glass is an interesting (but not overwhelming) swap for mint.

Give it a witty name: It lets your guests enjoy a laugh and lets them know you created a signature beverage just for the occasion.

Posted in Ocala Style Features

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