Eat + Drink

Best Handcrafted Cocktails in the City Beautiful

Mixologist Matt Izaguirre at Hanson’s Shoe Repair (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

If you’re the type of person who gags at the very mention of the words “Appletini,” “Cosmo” or “Screwdriver,” take heart. Orlando’s craft cocktail scene has burgeoned into a full-fledged movement, with more and more mixologists plying their craft in such creative and imaginative ways that even visitors from big city metros can’t help but raise a glass. The following are exquisite examples of what the City Beautiful has to offer the sophisticated drinker.

Blood and Sand at Hanson’s Shoe Repair

orlando-best-handcrafted-cocktails-hansons-shoe-repair.jpgBlood and Sand Cocktail at Hanson’s Shoe Repair (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

Yeah, the speakeasy thing has become old hat (even here in Orlando), but there’s something to be said about a place that commits wholeheartedly to it. From the hushed lighting to the hushed conversation, Hanson’s Shoe Repair, in all its throwback glory, is that place. It’s a bar-within-a-bar refuge for imbibers looking to slink away from the din of downtown’s dissolute dipsos and into a sanctuary of cocktail performance art.

Hanson’s concoctions are based on time-honored, Prohibition-era classics. Case in point: the spirited Blood and Sand, a mix of 12-year Glenfiddich, carpano antica (a sweet vermouth), cherry heering, orange juice and orange peel. It’s equal parts smoky and sweet, and every bit as sensual as the Rudolph Valentino moving picture for which it’s named.

The French Bengal at Courtesy Bar

orlando-best-handcrafted-cocktails-courtesy-bar.jpgFrench Bengal Cocktail at Courtesy Bar (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

It’s the sort of place fictional surgeon Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen in “The Knick”) would walk into after a hard day of medical experimentation, sidle up to the bar, then motion to the attending barkeep for absinthe. Courtesy Bar certainly has a feel of a turn-of-the-century apothecary, and indeed the exacting Dr. Feelgoods here wield an assortment of instruments with which to fashion their potent potables.

A highlight: the French Bengal. The smooth elixir comprises Blue Coat gin, Herbsaint absinthe, Darjeeling tea syrup, fresh lemon and chamomile water, and comes garnished with an edible flower, leaving you feeling simultaneously relaxed and reinvigorated. Serious and discerning drinkers pay great heed to the bar’s motto: “The pleasure is ours, the courtesy is yours.”

Kentucky Lavandula at Highball & Harvest

orlando-best-handcrafted-cocktails-highball-harvest.jpgKentucky Lavandula Cocktail at Highball & Harvest (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

Situated inside the pish-posh Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, Highball & Harvest is cast out of a decidedly new-school mold. Oh, it’s still classy, but it’s also a place to get your Southern on, and one sip of the subtly tart, sweet and floral Kentucky Lavandula will have you whistling Dixie. Small-batch Woodford Reserve bourbon is infused with spiced honey, angostura bitters and lemon juice in a glass rinsed with scotch. You can’t help but admire the cinnamon stick frozen in the sphere of ice, but what you’re ultimately left to appreciate are the lingering flavors of this grown-up libation.