Best Of 2012

Best of the bar scene

Best of the bar scene

When you work in a bar, being in a bar can get really old really fast – days blur together and sometimes you can't tell your Friday night from your three Saturdays before. So I'm thankful that there are some bars out there offering something out of the ordinary to help break up the weekly routine.

In honor of the fact that this is the Best of Orlando issue, in which we tell you what we think are the best and brightest things in the city, I figured I'd use this column to point you to some of the bar scene's best drinking gems.

Pickle back shots at Finnhenry's
39. N. Orange Ave.,

Imagine a world in which shots of Jameson are chased with a dash of hot sauce and a heaping pour of pickle juice. It's almost too good to be true. Good thing it's not. Don't like whiskey? Try a Patrón pickle back instead. Some bars have Mountain Dew. Others serve Dr. Pepper. Finn's steps it up with an abundance of dill pickle juice, one shot at a time.

Pudding shots at Lizzy McCormack's
55 N. Orange Ave.,

Oreo cookies, cookies-and-cream, M&M and funfetti are just four flavors of homemade pudding shots made daily by a magical Irish elf at Lizzy's. Served with a spoon and a dollop of whipped cream, these delicious little treats come strong and with a swift kick right to the bloodstream. 

Tuesdays at the Matador
56 E. Pine St., @matadororlando

Tuesday nights at Matador, the bartender prepares fresh-squeezed lemonade, homemade sour and simple syrups and other treats so you can have the perfect nightcap after a hard day at the office. If vodka, Tazo passion tea, homemade lemonade and two dashes of grapefruit bitters garnished with a plump organic blackberry doesn't suit your fancy, perhaps a rosemary gin fizz – rosemary-infused honey syrup, fresh lemon and gin, topped with soda water and fresh rosemary – will do instead. Did I mention a single, oversized square cube keeps your drink chilled? They're frozen special each Tuesday, just for you.

Microbrews, boutique wines and specialty empanadas at the Imperial Wine Bar and Beer Garden
1800 N. Orange Ave.,

One of my favorite food trucks is La Empanada, which parks outside the Imperial in Ivanhoe Village on Wednesday nights. When I can find fried pockets of sweet and savory goodness and enjoy an ice-cold Good JuJu at the same time, I just can't resist. Look for the chicken banh mi queso-romesco, and tomato, corn and goat cheese empanadas, in particular; they're the perfect complement to the Imperial's many microbrews.

Ladies Night at Bar-BQ-Barand Eye Spy
64 N. Orange Ave. and 54 N. Orange Ave.

Attention, gentlemen: Cheap drinks, good company and the best booty-shaking hip-hop bring all the girls to these two hot spots on Thursdays. The place is packed, but the bartenders are quick and the shots don't stop. There are even drink specials for the guys. I don't know too many places where you can get toasty for $15, but it could definitely happen at these two bars. (disclosure: I bartend at Eye Spy, so I'm not entirely impartial on this one.)

Sunday Picnic Party at Paradise
1300 N. Mills Ave.,

$1 Long Islands (huh?), vodka cocktails (excuse me?) and draft beers (those too?) are served by chiseled, shirtless men all day and night every Sunday at Paradise. If that's not enough, seven different shots are just $2 each, Diana Ross is blasting on the patio and the hot dogs are free. Sabretts! Need I say more?

What's your favorite bar night or drink special in town? Leave a comment at