Cask and Ale, downtown St. Petersburg’s newest high-end watering hole, opened to an overflow crowd Friday night in the reimagined space once home to The Independent, 29 3rd St. N.
The narrow space with the soaring ceiling features a long bar to the left and seating to the right, the walls covered in unfinished wood, as if you were cradled inside a wooden cask. It’s a warm and inviting space that would be great for quiet conversation over a hand-crafted cocktail, if not for the humongous crowd that filled the joint opening night and spilled out on the the sidewalk.
Although craft beer gets equal billing in the title, Cask and Ale has a decidedly cocktail bent. The 12 draft selections were run of the mill, with only a couple of local choices (Cigar City Jai Alai and Hotter Than Helles) along with the ubiquitous Magic Hat No. 9, and two nitro-infused beers from Breckenridge, Vanilla Porter and Left Hand Sawtooth. Thirty bottles round out the beer selections. More local beers will be added over time, we were told.
The big idea involves aging classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan in oak barrels. But aging takes time, and for now the focus is on specialty cocktails with fresh ingredients.
The half-dozen signature cocktails listed on a blackboard above the bar Friday night ($10 each) suggested far more ambition than the beer list. The Ginger Ginger combined Michter’s Whiskey with pineapple, mint and ginger beer. Very tasty and easy to drink. The Maple Old Fashioned had Jack Daniels, maple syrup, orange and aromatic and Creole bitters. A tad sweet but a solid version of the classic.
The craft sensibility will extend to the kitchen. Chef Ian Carmichael, formerly of Parts of Paris in Safety Harbor, says he’s a big fan of the Refinery in Seminole Heights and aims for a changing chalkboard menu featuring a similar farm-to-table aesthetic in small bites. Think confit duck wings and pork belly. He said he will be using some molecular gastronomy techniques in the kitchen and some will be applied to cocktails, too.
Even the ice for the cocktails has gotten serious attention — perfectly square and crystal clear, they look great in a tall glass.
Owners Jeremy Wallace and Jeff Catherell once ran Vintage Ultra Lounge and have created a place that could not be more different and a welcome addition to the downtown scene.