If you're not out during the hottest part of the day – happy hour – gulping down fancifully flavored alcoholic beverages and calling the sun a pussy for not giving you skin cancer yet, then you are no Floridian. Orlando is rife with places to cool your melting heels and flip the heat index a long-overdue birdie.
Take, for instance, one of our newest hot spots for primo mixology: Prato (124 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, prato-wp.com), the otherwise casual-chic Italian restaurant on Park Ave. Sure there's a multiple-dollar sign menu full of dishes made with sustainable seafood, fresh produce and so on, but the real draw here is the huge fucking bar. Taking center stage amid the wood and brick rustic decor, the bar looks like it could seat almost as many people as the rest of the restaurant. Bottles of liquor glow tantalizingly from this altar to mixology, and the menu lists drink names designed to tickle the loins of Italophiles (try the "Cetriolo" or the "Amalfi Sunset"). The list's primary focus is citrus and it leads off with the Italian Citrus ($10), which has a heavy base of grapefruit vodka topped with aperol, house-made lemonade and pomegranate juice. A perfect thirst-quencher, it's refreshing and fruity, tasting kind of like what you'd get if a grapefruit got drunk and rolled around in some oranges.
Since it already had a big following before it got its liquor license, Stardust Video & Coffee (1842 E. Winter Park Road, stardustie.com) has used its bar more as a playground for drunken creativity than as a tool to draw a crowd, which fits perfectly with this Audubon Park joint's neo-bohemian coffee house style. Stardust focuses big on vintage cocktails that include ingredients like Lillet Blanc and raw egg whites, which is usually enough to make me want to ditch work for the day and head down for a tipple. Unfortunately, your timing has to be just right to get the drink you're lusting after at Stardust – the bar doesn't keep a recipe book, so if a star mixologist (and their special liquor stash) isn't around during your visit, you may have to settle for a less provocative (but no less tasty and alcoholic) cocktail. I hope this problem is resolved soon, because just imagining that delicious sour made from applejack, peach brandy, lime juice, egg whites, sugar, soda water and Angostura bitters is giving my tongue wet dreams.
The newest kid on the craft-cocktail block is Ollie's Public House (3400 Edgewater Drive – yes, where Jax 5th Ave used to be – olliespublichouse.com), brought to you by the same folks behind downtown retro-pub Finnhenry's. Ollie's looks and feels a lot like Jax, but with the addition of economical no-frills-but-delicious specialty cocktails. Served in a mason jar, the drinks are around $5 a pop ($3 if made with Pinnacle vodka during happy hour) and almost certainly designed for hot outdoors drinking. The Ruby Red may be the most refreshing and the most deceptively dangerous, as the grapefruit vodka, lemonade and cranberry juice all combine forces to make you feel invincible to the heat and immune from inevitable drunkenness at the same time. The $8 martinis are nothing to sneer at, either. The perfect summer tent pole cucumber martini is just gin, vermouth and a couple slices of flavorful cucumber, but it's the perfect way to kiss the sun goodbye for a day (and forget that 80 degrees is as cool as it's going to get for a while).
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