Bartenders' best cocktails 

Since 2010, the Left Coast Bartenders’ Guild has been busting the myth that Tampa Bay is devoid of delicious craft cocktails.

Blow-torching rosemary, infusing pears with cinnamon and tequila … that’s all in a night’s work for Left Coast Bartenders' Guild members. From Sidebern’s to Mandarin Hide, they are stationed at the loveliest of watering holes across the Bay area.

“You can say that more of the items from the produce section are making their way into our drinks,” says Tony Finotti, 25, bar manager at Mandarin Hide. “The other night, I made a drink with carrot juice and cilantro.”

Jalapeños, watermelons, plums, herbs and spices are being incorporated into cocktail mixers. Artificially flavored spirits are out, natural and simple ingredients are in. Most craft cocktail bars have more bushels of fresh basil behind the bar than maraschino cherries these days.

“I am loving fresh fruits and rums,” said Brandon Redshaw, 25, bartender and supervisor at PCI Bar & Grill.

Rums, whiskeys and gins are back in full force on cocktail menus at Domani’s, Grille One Sixteen, and the Post Card Inn.

“My drinks are so refreshing,” says Carla Rivera, 32, who freelances at bars around the area. “I call them trouble in a glass, or panty-droppers.”

Indeed, these bartenders have seen panties dropped and worse. Boy, do they have stories. For example, take this snippet heard during the photo shoot at Mandarin Hide.

“She ate two hot dogs … fell into a cop car and kept texting.”

As they tasted each other’s concoctions, notes were made, recipes tweaked, and many sips were taken. These artisans of alcohol have honed a craft, a science of tastes and flavors, and their science is a lot better than the frog you dissected in high school

Signature drinks from the Left Coast Bartenders’ Guild.

Brandon Redshaw, PCI Bar & Grill

Bourbon Mojito

A refreshing summer sip made with PCI’s own 4 Roses Bourbon, mint sprigs and lemon juice, shaken and topped with ginger ale.

Alex Barranco, Grille One Sixteen

Rum Alejandro

Bold coffee flavors, rum and a touch of spice from mole and orange bitters, heavy cream, and Galliano.

Dean Hurst, Sidebern’s

Dulce Pera (sweet pear)

The Salma Hayek of drinks: tequila and cinnamon, garnished with a skewer of tequila- and cinnamon-soaked pears.

Doug Coe, Bern’s Steak House

Sazerac

The classic mix of absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters and George Dickel Rye Whisky, garnished with a lemon twist.

Pete Siewruk, Domani’s Bistro

Bee Sting

An Arnold Palmer-like cocktail made with rye, honey syrup, and lemon juice, topped with ginger beer.

Ryan Pinés, freelance bartender

Rye-barb Sour

The cocktail’s cocktail, made with George Dickel Rye Whisky, rhubarb bitters, maple syrup, lemon juice, and egg whites.

Tony Finotti, Mandarin Hide

Bug’s Life

A candied dew made from vodka, ginger liqueur, white grape juice, lime juice, and basil, garnished with skewered frozen grapes on a big basil leaf.

Carla Rivera, freelance bartender

Bloody Spring

The first day of spring in a glass, filled with blood orange juice, Lillet, Spring 44 honey vodka, honey syrup, and lime juice.

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