As the seasons turn and the mercury rises, heralding the onset of another scorching and sticky summer under the Florida sun, it’s important to keep one’s cool, both figuratively and literally. And from the classic mint julep to the iconic sweet tea, the South has made a name off its dedication to refreshing libation. So whether kicking back in the shade on a sweltering day, rooting for your favorite racehorse or toasting the setting sun at its nightly departure, these drinks exemplify Southern comfort.

BLACKBERRY JULEP FROM SOCIAL EATERY & BAR. PHOTO BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

Blackberry Julep  |  Social Eatery & Bar

Far from the landlocked fields of Kentucky and without a horse in sight, the Mint Julep gets a Florida makeover at Social Eatery & Bar, transforming and reemerging with attitude, edge and tart as the Blackberry Julep. Fresh blackberries get top billing, showing up at the very beginning to be mixed with agave nectar for sweetener and muddled with mint and a splash of pomegranate juice. “It’s not traditional,” admits Social Bar Manager David Tlaiye. “It’s our take.” But he weaves back to the Kentucky straight and narrow as he reaches for the Woodford Reserve, giving the julep a strong bourbon profile the Colonel would be proud of. Served over crushed ice with a blackberry and mint garnish, Tlaiye recommends pairing with either a rich sauce, such as  that found in the pan-roasted chicken, or with a light appetizer to share with friends, like the calamari. Social Eatery & Bar, 1219 1st St., Sarasota, 941-444-7072.

 

Brown Sugar Grapefruit Old Fashioned  |  Fins At Sharky’s

After years of experience, Scott Kowalewski just might be an Old Fashioned expert. “Wherever I go,” he says, “I generally try an Old Fashioned.” And he keeps notes, mentally marking down what works and what doesn’t as everyone tries to put their spin on a classic. As it so happens, Kowalewski is also the service and bar manager at Fins at Sharky’s, where the Brown Sugar Grapefruit Old Fashioned stands as the culmination of his exploration and is, he says, “the best Old Fashioned around.” Built from the bottom up, Kowalewski begins with a house-made tincture of simple syrup, cardamom pods, star anise, cinnamon and allspice, steeped overnight. He opts for a pair of liqueurs—cuantro and liquor 43—instead of bitters, and turns to Woodford Reserve for the bourbon. “It has the right balance of sweetness and lightness,” he says. Rounding it out with a tablespoon of brown sugar and some grapefruit zest, the drink is complete with the addition of caramelized citrus oils from a torched grapefruit rind.   Fins at Sharky’s, 1600 Harbor Dr. S, Venice, 941-999-3467.

 

Seagram’s Georgia Peach Sweet Tea  |  The Blue Rooster

It wouldn’t be the South without some sweet tea in the mix, and it wouldn’t be the Blue Rooster if the bartenders didn’t give it that extra Southern twist. And what’s more Southern than booze? Starting with a classic mason jar filled with ice, a couple ounces of Seagram’s Sweet Tea Vodka makes quick friends with a helping of Peach Schnapps, creating a balanced and boozy base to fill out a liberal dose of unsweetened tea. “It’s an amazing balance,” says bartender Alondra Lewis, without either flavor overpowering the other and the unsweetened tea keeping everything mellow. “It feels like you’re drinking sweet tea,” she adds, “until about 20 minutes later.” One of the Blue Rooster’s most popular drinks, when asked what to pair it with Lewis’ eyes go wide. “Everything,” she says, before finally settling on the Crawfish Mac and Cheese or the house meatloaf.  The Blue Rooster, 1525 4th St., Sarasota, 941-388-7539.