For this year’s Cocktail Issue, CL has gathered three recipes from a trio of newcomers doing worthwhile cocktails. We made it a point to feature places that serve food (for those of you who like to nibble while you sip), possess their own distinct vibe and attitude, and have another important element in common: Their bar programs aren’t an afterthought.
First up is CW’s Gin Joint in downtown Tampa. Upon entering this elegant place with an updated speakeasy ambience, you feel like you’ve gone back in time — in a good way. It’s as if the old-fashioned yet something-for-everyone bar has encapsulated the experience of drinking in the 1920s. The cocktail menu overflows with classics that every connoisseur should be familiar with, and not just gin, either.
I’m here for the Panda, though, a Gin Joint original. While the drink draws inspiration from the traditional, low-ABV Bamboo — an evening starter sort of cocktail — bar manager Daniel Bareswilt told CL the goal was to avoid repeat ingredients because the Bamboo is on the lineup at Hotel Bar, a not-to-be-missed downtown hangout in its own right that’s good friends with the Gin Joint.
Since the Panda’s sherry is a savory and almost nutty wine, Bareswilt continued, the crew thought that incorporating a gin with some spice would make the most sense. Enter Opihr (pronounced o-peer), whose botanicals are sourced along the ancient spice route across Asia and Europe.
“You can certainly drink it anytime of the night. I think it’s best as an aperitif accompanying food,” he said of the Panda. “The best version of the drink is when you have oysters in your hand.”
As for the rest of the bar program — including the exhaustively assembled Gin Matrix, a tool that not only highlights gin, but also allows the gin-curious to explore the category on a deeper level — Bareswilt said the Gin Joint specializes in hospitality, tailoring the experience to people as they come. The bar wants its guests (even the ones fresh off the Riverwalk) to be comfortable, whether they’re looking to pair a cocktail with food, or enjoy a beer among good company and live music.
The bar manager put it simply: “For me, it’s just important that people have a great time.”
1 1/2 ounces sherry (manzanilla or amontillado)
1 ounce Opihr Gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
2 dashes Spanish bitters
Fill a coupe glass with ice and set aside to chill. In a cocktail mixing glass, add all ingredients and top with ice. Stir until well-chilled, about 20 to 30 seconds. Discard ice from glass and strain in cocktail.