By Nicole Hutcheson
Whether you’re looking to down a cold beer with your toes in the sand or sip a martini to the sultry sounds of South Beach, you’re bound to find a Florida bar that fits your mood.
Thoughts of the classic beach bar may come to mind when thinking about watering holes in Florida. But think again. Florida bars run the gamut from derelict dives to pubs and lounges.
The sheer variety of Florida bars may be due to the state’s very character.
Florida is where people come to escape and have fun, both of which typically includes a libation or two. And since the numbers of people flocking to Florida keep flowing, there’s no surprise that drinks at Florida bars do, too.
The ICEBAR in Orlando draws thousands from around the globe who crave a chilly, albeit whimsical, drinking experience. The space of more than 5,000 square feet includes a bar that is completely made of -- you guessed it -- ice. The bar remains a cold 25 degrees year round. It’s so cold you’re given a hat and gloves when you enter. But signature cocktails like Eskimo Rum Punch and Snow Cosmo have a way of warming up the experience.
It’s the sheer insanity of the place that keeps people coming back to Mahuffer’s on Indian Shores Beach. You never know what you’ll find at this bar along Florida’s Gulf Coast. The quintessential dive bar boast an eclectic decor including a snowmobile, women's undergarments, and a ceiling covered in dollar bills. Some say you have to see it to believe it. Others say the cold beer makes it worth it. Either way, it’s the "wurst place on the beech" (their words, not ours) that you have to try.
Sidecar in Jacksonville is where old school prohibition era cocktails and urban style go down easy. In just three years, this Jacksonville bar has become the place to be in the "River City." And that’s probably because the mixologists aren't afraid to take chances with unexpected ingredients. Case in point: the "Trailer Park Pool Party" which includes Rye and Capt’n Crunch cereal.
Tucked away behind palm trees in Tampa’s historic Seminole Heights is Mermaid’s Tavern in Tampa. This craft beer, wine bar and gastropub is known for more than 20 beers on tap, and even better bar food. The tavern's chef has competed in the coveted James Beard Foundation Burger contest. Mermaid’s Tavern is a throwback bar to a time when blue collar bungalow dwellers were treated like kings in what once was a working class part of town. These days, hipsters and longtime locals frequent this bar for local craft brews like Funky Buddha from Oakland Park and Pair O’ Dice from Clearwater.
You can’t talk about Florida bars without mentioning the infamous stretch of them that sits along South Beach. When the sun goes down, South Beach’s bar scene turns into a catwalk with beautiful people floating from one watering hole to the next. It can be hard to stand out. But among the most notable is The Clevelander. This South Beach mainstay holds prime real estate on Ocean Drive. It's exactly what tourist would expect of a South Beach bar including wet T-shirt contests, poolside lounging and frosty frozen mixed drinks. You'll feel like you're on a never ending summer break at the Clevelandar.