Recently, we found ourselves in Orlando, Florida and, as usual, set out on a mission to identify the best Orlando Craft Cocktail Bars. As it turns out, Orlando, like several other Florida cities we’ve visited, has a great craft cocktail scene. No, none of them are at Disney World, although a drunk Mickey would be a great logo. Apparently, there is a rule in the city that bars are licensed and taxes collected based on the doors to the establishments rather than the the size, shape or arrangement of the facility, itself. So, if a few bars share the same door, they get licensed and taxed as if they were one.
As a result, some enterprising people have bought or rented old buildings that are a maze of interconnected spaces, but all share at least one entrance together. In these places, they build out multiple bars. Each one of these is small, cozy and because of the focus on cocktails, great at mixing drinks.
While we were there, we visited:
- Herman’s Loan Office (yeah, I had to go there)
- The Courtesy
- Hanson’s Shoe Repair
Each of the bars was small – very small – with great ambiance and fantastic bartenders who wanted to talk with us about the drinks they make and why they use the ingredients they do. Each one of them was happy to mix a new drink based on what we like rather than what they have listed on their bar menu. Herman’s and Hanson’s are examples of a trend we’re seeing all over the place. Bars are being named for the businesses that occupied the building they’re in from the past. Herman’s was a bank and Hanson’s was, well, a shoe repair shop.
Our first stop was The Courtesy, which claims to be the first craft cocktail bar in Orlando. The bartender talked with us about the myriad of foreign ingredients stocked behind the bar and why certain ingredients work together. A sign of a bartender who enjoys his craft.
Next, we hit Herman’s and met a terrific bartender, Maria, who gladly synthesized drinks from a list of favorites we offered up. The drinks were excellent. When we asked about favorite gins, she happily let us try some and even introduced us to a new tonic syrup she was using and highly recommended. She also told us that she was the bartender at Hanson’s the next evening. So we made it our next target.
Hanson’s is one of multiple bars in a single building and requires that you tweet them ahead of time to get the password to get in (shhh – @hansonsshoeshop). Sorta a modern cut on a speakeasy. When you do get in, you’re escorted by two other bars before you find Hanson’s way upstairs. Maria was their and mixed us a couple more fantastic drinks.
We also had some great drinks at a few fantastic restaurants:
All are highly recommended. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hit all the highly-ranked cocktail bars in town. Next time, we’ll also visit: