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Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 8:50 AM

SWFL Spirited Mixologists Craft Memorable Cocktail and Cuisine Pairings

Southwest Florida is known for pairing the fun in the sun lifestyle with hand-crafted cocktails and culinary delights! Bartenders of the favorite spots around town plated up their favorite duos as part of sharing Local Flavors of the sunshine state.
Andrew Cobaen, head bartender at Bar Tulia


Bar Tulia 

462 5th Avenue South, Naples 
9118 Strada Place, Suite 8150, Naples 

Bar Tulia opened its doors in 2014, incorporating a unique drink menu that complements the Italian influenced pub flare. Bar Tulia blends the cocktail style of Milan and New York with its highly skilled mixologist. 
“I always recommend the Traveling Aztec and our Garganelli. Traveling Aztec is Ilegal Mezcal for the main liquor and mixed with tamarind lime, 10-year port wine, Campari, orgeat, and orange juice. It is a tiki styled drink and layered with both almond and fruitiness with a smokey taste. Our syrups and garnishes are made fresh and in house,” said Andrew Cobaen, head bartender at Bar Tulia for four years. 
He continued with, “I came up with this cocktail myself and we rotate our drink menu seasonally, about every six months. Traveling Aztec comes in a special themed glass and topped with mint and infused cherries.” 
Bar Tulia incorporates elements of Italy with imported beers and wine, flattering the small tapa style and full portion cuisines. This intimate bar is driven by fresh and flavorful ingredients prepared in traditional Italian style with unexpected zests. 
“Gorganelli is lamb neck sugo with fennel seed, tomato, and pecorino romano. The twisted pasta and sauce make a heavier and richer dish and pairs perfectly with the refreshing tang of the cocktail. The smokey and herbal elements match the heartiness,” said Cobean. “We make our pasta fresh and daily here at our restaurant. During our Happy Hour menu, you can get a half plate, which is a partial serving and the Gorganelli is an option!” 

Nice Guys Pints and Pies 

1404 Cape Coral Parkway East, Cape Coral 

 The Pendennis at Nice Guys Pints and Pies

Where flavor and passion collide! Nice Guys puts a twist on pizza and the artisan way of creating a cocktail. Lined with old fashion pinball machines and neon walls, Nice Guys also dishes out funky pies with hot honey and house-made ranch along with drinks on fire! 
“We are a diverse and energetic atmosphere that allows us creativity to grow knowledge in mixing drinks and providing an elevated experience, with our live music and family-like patrons,” said Zach Santana, who has been employed at Nice Guys for the past three years. 
“My favorite pairing is The Washing Carver Pizza and the Pendennis. The Pendennis is an old fashion that makes you warm and tingly. The cocktail is prepared with house-made orange and black walnut bitters, a touch of sugar for balance, and a toasty grain forward bourbon. It is stirred with ice before being poured over a large cube in a rocks glass that is smoked to order over cherry wood. We then torch and express an orange peel over the beverage for an aromatic and citrusy perfume. The first sip greets you with richness and lingering charred wood notes, it is smooth with a hint of black pepper to finish,” said Santana. 
The Washington Carver Pizza is made with house peanut sauce and rich applewood smoked bacon, mozzarella, and topped with a healthy amount of house-made raspberry jam and sliced jalapenos. 
“The pizza has a bit of heat! But the first bite out of the oven will change your life,” joked Santana. 
He continued with, “I always recommend this pairing to encourage our guests to explore non-traditional styles of food and beverages. Torching the wood to smoke the glass provides the guest with an experience and helps strike up a conversation about how we craft our drinks while enjoying our delicious menu items.” 
The Washington Carver and Pendennis allows different flavor profiles to bond with the touches of smokiness and sweet from the jam and oranges. 
“This cocktail and the Washington Carver Pizza go together like PB&J!,” said Santana. 

Doc Fords Rum Bar and Grille 
 Yucatan Shrimp and Tarpon Bay Breeze cocktail at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille

2500 Island Inn Road, Sanibel 
708 Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Myers Beach 
610 2nd Avenue Northeast, St. Petersburg 
8790 Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg 

Doc Fords Rum Bar and Grille has four amazing locations with waterfront seating! Serving the freshest seafood and signature cocktails along with premium rum selections, Doc Fords is known for “a vacation on a plate!” 
The mixture suggested is the Yucatan Shrimp and Tarpon Bay Breeze cocktail, bringing paradise in each sip! 
Tomlinson traveled to the Bay of Ascension, Quintana Roo, Mexico to fish for bonefish and came back with this great recipe! Steamed peel-and-eat shrimp in a dressing of real butter, garlic, mild Colombian chilies, fresh cilantro, and key lime juice,” said bartender Brian Cruz. “I would pair with the cocktail, Tarpon Bay Breeze. It is made with toasted coconut rum, Blue Chair Bay Banana Rum, both pineapple juice and cranberry juice.” 
Cruz continued with, “the drink is a fantastic combination of coconut and banana rum with tropical juices. It makes a very refreshing and light rum drink! Our Bay Breeze paired with our Yucatan Shrimp provides a refreshing contrast of sweet and refreshing with the slight spicy and citrus taste of the Yucatan Shrimp.” 
Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grill takes pride in bringing flavors and styles from other countries and tying it into the Florida lifestyle. 
“Come in and enjoy sitting on one of our covered outdoor patios overlooking Estero Bay with our Bay Breeze cocktail and signature Yucatan Shrimp,” said Cruz. 

Hooked Island Grill 

9924 Gulf Coast Main Street, Fort Myers 

 The Magnum Mary at Hooked Island Grill

Originally calling home to Matlacha, Hooked Island Grill has moved into Gulf Coast Town Center. 
The seafood joint has a dynamic pair all into one order, the “Magnum Mary.” Hooked Island Grill is known for the visual delights of entrees, carefully crafted and plated, bring an extra layer to the dining experience. 
“Our Magnum Mary is a drink and meal all into one,” said Kyle Sherman of Hooked Island Grill. “Sail in and catch our weekend brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday!” 
“First we rim the glass with smoked paprika and old bay, next we add Ketel One and our Q Mixer Bloody Mary mix,” said Sherman. “Then we get to the fun! We add all the skewers! You get a pound of snow crab, three blacked shrimp, two strips of apple cider bacon, a mini lobster roll, queen stuffed olives, Wisconsin cheese curds, dill pickle chips, celery stalks, and finished with lemons and limes!” 
He continued with, “It is the perfect Bloody Mary and fresh seafood bunch!” 

 IceHouse Pub 

408 Tamiami Trail, Suite 111, Punta Gorda 

The Icehouse Pub is an authentic English pub and restaurant. This historic spot is built from an ice storage unit used in the late 1800s. 
“The Fish n Chips with the Pimms Cup is the perfect pair! They go well together since the carbonation of the drink helps balance the fresh battered cod. It is the perfect selection to experience the taste of a classic British combo,” said Shannon Mercer of the Icehouse Pub. 

The Icehouse is known for its hearty dishes and Guinness on draft, along with other traditional style cuisines. 
She continued with, “Each and every order of fish is hand battered and fried to order with our house-made beer batter.” Fish n Chips is made with Belgian ale and served with a side of coleslaw and homemade tartar sauce. Choose a 4 oz or 8 oz portion. 
“The Pimms Cup drink is a gin based English liquor that was made by James Pimm in the 19th century London. James Pimm owned an oyster bar and would offer his gin to help with the digestion of the heavier English style foods,” said Mercer. “This drink is sweet, fruity, and bubbly! My favorite part is the presentation. I add fresh cucumber, basil, and strawberries with the Pimm No. 1 and some fresh lime juice and a little bubbly.” 
She laughed with, “I’ll let you in on a little secret, the cucumber is the best part!” 

10 Twenty-Five 

33 Patio De Leon, Fort Myers 
1025 Santana Barbara Boulevard, Cape Cora

 Elote Chicken Wings and The Bitter End cocktail at 10 Twenty-Five

10 Twenty-Five brings together crafted cocktails and homestyle scratch kitchen entrees with indoor and outdoor seating and bar stools. 
“The dish and drink pairing are our signature Elote Chicken Wings and The Bitter End cocktail,” said Emilee Werline, bartender at 10 Twenty-Five in downtown Fort Myers. “They are crispy fried wings doused in our chili lime aioli and then topped with street corn, cilantro, chopped jalapeno and cotija cheese. The perfect mix of savory and a hint of spice!” 
Elote Chicken Wings come in a serving of six wings and plated with celery and ranch. 
Werline continued with, “the Bitter End is a blend of Mezcal, Campari, pineapple, fresh lime, and agave. The mix of sweet pineapple and bitter Campari almost hints at the senses of grapefruit, but the cocktail is more so a crushable, smokey, tiki-style drink with a tongue-biting finish.” 
“I would describe this pairing as an elevated, craft version of the classic ‘taco and margarita’ duo. Personally, I enjoy familiarizing the public with the complex flavor and bold taste of Mezcal. As important as it is to make sure our guests are comfortable and be confident that they are ordering a cocktail they will enjoy, I find just as much joy in educating and challenging their taste buds,” she said. 
“This pairing would be perfect for the outlandish and curious guest. The wings being one of our most popular items to date - the perfect blend of house-made Mexican flavors, coupled up with an original and sweet-smokey, not to mention boozy, cocktail. It makes for a satisfying lunch or dinner stop at 10 Twenty-Five in downtown Fort Myers!” 

Rooftop at Riverside 

27333 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs 

Nestled in the heart of downtown Bonita Springs, Rooftop at Riverside is a two-story bar and food truck hangout. Featuring hand-crafted cocktails and assortment of Southwest Florida’s finest flavors. 
“We make our own rum infused with pineapples and cinnamon and named these drinks after this community. The goal is to have people learn our history and keep them coming back,” said Phil Willis. 
Rooftop at Riverside has eight signature drinks named after the history of Florida. Banyan Burst salutes the regal Banyan tree, planted in 1921 and covers Reynolds Street and Old 41. 
“My favorite drink to make is the Banyan Burst Watermelon Jalapeno Cooler! It just has so many fun elements to it and I love putting it all together. It is like I am doing a little dance as I grab bottles with both hands and shake it together!” said bartender Alyssa Jaen. “It has vodka, watermelon juice, bittersweet Apersol, and a sour finish. It is then topped with sparkling soda and fresh jalapeno kick!” 
She continued with, “I really love the pizza truck we have here since they are gluten-free! The salads are also amazing!” 
Zoey’s Pizza is the featured truck on location, along with five other options. 
“It is a brand-new truck I put together with my dad! You got to grab the Chick from Buffalo, which is our buffalo chicken pizza, it is my favorite!” said Zoey Lester of Zoey’s Pizza. “It is flakey crust topped with mozzarella, wood fire chicken, banana peppers, pickled red onion, scallions, and finished with ranch and buffalo sauce.” 
Willis added, “the number one person here is always the guest. To sit back and enjoy the weather and view while sipping something good!” 

Stretto Coastal Italian Table at Sunseekers 

5500 Sunseekers Way, Charlotte Harbor 

 Jefferson Oatts with the white negroni at Stretto Coastal Italian Table

Experience waterfront resort and dining experience within the Charlotte Harbor! Overlooking the Peace River with shopping and cuisines, open to the public to hangout and relax. 
Pair the Chef ’s Charcuterie and Cheeseboard and White Gegroni from Chef Dave Blackburn at Stretto Coastal Italian Table. Stretto has traces of Italy within the menu, from the tip of the Italian boot to coastlines of Sicily. 
“The white negroni is neoclassic cocktail. A spin-off of the Italian classic, and bartender favorite, the Negroni. While there is no standardized recipe for a white Negroni, the plot remains the same: A classic Italian profile that incorporates bitter and sweet liqueurs and is perfect before dinner. The big difference, the spirits are usually clear with a slight yellow hue,” said Jefferson Oatts. 
Continuing with, “I have been making this drink for several years. It is a bitter-sweet mix of Gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, and Bianco Vermouth stirred and poured over a coconut ice cube with grapefruit essence. As the coconut ice melts, the drink evolves and changes. Each sip delicious, but each sip different. The coconut brings a richness and tropicality that is delightful against the bracing bitterness of the typical aperitivo styled cocktail.” 
Chef ’s Cheeseboard includes seasonal selection of Italian meats and cheeses with marcona almonds, Florida honeycombs, and grilled bread. 
“I love this combination at sunset while sitting at the bar or on the patio. The same way each sip changes, each bite from the charcuterie and cheese board is different than the last, and the sky is also changing as the minutes pass with the setting sun. It is a situational pairing that I love. Each moment is different than the last, and it just gets better-and-better,” he said. 

Turco Taco 

410 9th Street North, Naples 
1514 Immokalee Road, Suite 116, Naples 


Turco Taco is known for using fresh, organic, and locally grown produce and balancing flavor with dietary restrictions from vegan, gluten-free, and keto lifestyles. Turco Taco creates smiles, one taco at a time. 
“I would recommend the pair of our Turco Margarita and the Tinga Con Pollo Taco! The Turco Margarita is El Guitarron agave, Triple Sec, with fresh lime juice, cane sugar, and filtered water,” said Dragan Teov of Turco Taco. “The taco is handmade crispy corn tortilla shell, chicken in chipotle crema, organic romaine lettuce, sliced radish, and cotija cheese.” 
Teov continued with, “It tastes like heaven! The medium spicy from the Tinga Con Pollo Taco combined with the freshness of the lettuce and radish complements the sweet and savory margarita flavor. They go well together since the margarita is a very refreshing nature, it balances the level of spice within the taco.” 
Tinga Con Pollo Taco is priced at $4.25 each and the signature margarita is $7. 
“The pair is going to create flavor exploration in your mouth!” said Teov. 

 Turco Margarita and the Tinga Con Pollo Taco 


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