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Tasty cocktails that are a sure bet to beat the heat

Sip your way into summer with these tantalizing concoctions.

The Blood Orange Aperol Spritz is a newcomer to the cocktail menu at Pop's Sunset Grill.
The Blood Orange Aperol Spritz is a newcomer to the cocktail menu at Pop's Sunset Grill.
Photo by Lori Sax
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The art of the cocktail takes many forms. 

It can be splashy, flashy, subtle, indulgent, or pyrotechnics for the senses. Shaken or stirred? Unless you’re James Bond, it can hit the right spot either way. This aqueous art form is thriving throughout the keys. 

Here are some sips that are well worth the trip.

Cha Cha Coconuts 

If You Go: 417 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota; 388-3300;

Jamaican Me Crazy
Photo by Lori Sax

The name itself puts a smile on your face. A nod to the 1929 Marx Brothers movie? Close, but no cigar. The restaurant was founded in the late 1980s by third- and fourth-generation family members of the 1905 Family of Restaurants (which also owns Cha Cha’s St. Armands Circle neighbor, the Columbia Restaurant). The first location was on Harbour Island in Tampa. The restaurant’s name comes from a phrase uttered by Casey Gonzmart Sr., the great-grandson of Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., the founder of the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. According to local lore, company co-owners Richard Gonzmart and his father, Cesar, were fighting about the name: “I don’t care if you want to call it Cha-Cha Mambo Coconuts,” one said to the other. Cesar and Richard looked at one another and said, “What a great name!” Today, Andrea Gonzmart, the great-great-granddaughter of Casimiro Hernandez Sr., is Cha Cha Coconuts’ director of operations. She also comes up with most of the inventive cocktail names.

Sip This: The Jamaican Me Crazy was one of the first cocktails on Cha Cha’s menu. Richard Gonzmart created it in 1987 with Coco Lopez, guava nectar, pineapple juice, Bacardi Black Rum and grenadine. Go ahead and get crazy!

Sip This: Lido Beach Lemonade raises a toast to the sugary white sands of nearby Lido Beach. It’s made with freshly squeezed lemon juice and Tito’s Handmade Vodka in a sugar-rimmed glass and is the perfect prelude to a sunset beach stroll.

Pop’s Sunset Grill 

If You Go: 112 Circuit Road, Nokomis, Sarasota; 488-3177;

Pop's Punch
Photo by Lori Sax

This Casey Key institution is an Old Florida dream come true. It’s home to picture-postcard views, flopping fresh fish, a lively bar scene and inventive cocktails. General manager Stephanie Brown is especially happy to announce that Pop’s is collaborating with the local Shark Tooth Distillery. Its hand-crafted spirits include Blood Orange Vodka (which gives a kick in the butt to traditional syrupy sweet, artificially flavored vodkas) and its Shark Tooth Original Vodka (“born from the very heart of Florida,” to quote the company’s marketing materials). Shark Tooth co-owner Beata Dale likens it to moonshine, saying it’s “crafted to be a little more authentic and a little less refined.”

Sip This: Blood Orange Aperol Spritz is a newcomer to Pops’ cocktail menu. This upstart is a twist on the classic Aperol spritz. But they kick it up a notch with a dash of a local favorite — Shark Tooth Blood Orange Vodka. Aperol, prosecco and club soda are also in the mix. 

Sip This: Pop’s Punch packs a punch all right. This signature island-style rum cocktail has been on Pops’ cocktail menu for over 30 years. The mix includes white rum, Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, grenadine and is topped with Barcardi 151. 

The Haye Loft 

If You Go: 5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key; 383-3633; 

The Oriole
Photo by Lori Sax

At the top of the stairs above Euphemia Haye, you’ll discover a nocturnal oasis that elevates indulgence to another level. The Haye Loft awaits, a haven where night owls revel in piped-in jazz, a sophisticated lounge ambience and heavenly desserts. Its bar, a meticulously curated library of libations, boasts an array of whiskeys, wines, brews on tap, and bourbons to satiate every thirst. And behold, the pièce de résistance: bespoke cocktails crafted by bartender Jhon Zamora, a true magician of mixology. Prepare to be enchanted by his liquid wizardry.

Sip This: The Oriole is a sensory jam session of flavors served up over ice. Bulleit Bourbon forms the bold foundation, intertwined with the bittersweet allure of Aperol. Fresh lemon juice lends zest in perfect tune with the subtly sweet agave nectar. A Tajin rim adds a tantalizing twist of spice to every sip. 

Daiquiri Deck

If You Go: 5250 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key; 349-8697;

Pain in the A$$
Photo by Adam Westbay

The daiquiri stands at the cool end of the cocktail spectrum. This sweet symphony was born on Cuba’s shores. Amazingly, it’s crafted from just three ingredients — rum, lime juice, and simple syrup derived from sugar cane. This paradoxically dry and sweet concoction dissolves any thirst and instantly transports you. A single sip makes any night a Havana night. Where to find one in these parts? Daiquiri Deck, of course!

Sip This: The Pain in the A$$ cocktail has a cheeky name and is a two-tiered mix of piña colada and rum runner. The “pain” part comes as a nod to olden days when bartenders needed two blenders at once, equating time with money. Despite blender advancements, the name endures.

Sip This: Bat Sh*t Crazy The mad scientists at Daiquiri Deck formulated this mad cocktail. Their mission? Create the strongest combination possible. They achieved their batty objective with a mix of Deck Diesel, rum runner and strawberry syrup, all topped with Diesel 153 vodka. You’d have to be bat sh*t crazy to order this cocktail. (That said, it’s insanely popular.)

Shore at St. Armands Circle

If You Go: 465 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota; 296-0301;

Blood Orange Margarita
Photo by Lori Sax

The vibe is always relaxing at Shore on St. Armands Circle. By day, it exudes casual, coastal charm, while transitioning into an ambience of intimate sophistication as twilight descends. The menu is a masterpiece of locally sourced seafood and land-based dishes. But its creatively crafty cocktails sometimes also steal the show. Their crowd-pleasing secret? “We try to use as many fresh ingredients as possible,” says Yvette Nguyen, manager. “Juice from a can is easier, but freshly squeezed fruit juice is always better. That’s why we squeeze our lemon and lime juices daily.”

Sip This: The Blood Orange Margarita springs from a collaboration between Yvette Nguyen and a former colleague. Crafted with Corazòn Blanco Tequila, Solerno Liqueur, Natalie’s Blood Orange Juice, freshly squeezed limes and agave syrup, this concoction is a perfect balance of flavors. Each sip is a medley of citrusy notes and tequila’s smooth seduction.



Marty Fugate

Marty Fugate is a writer, cartoonist and voiceover actor whose passions include art, architecture, performance, film, literature, politics and technology. As a freelance writer, he contributes to a variety of area publications, including the Observer, Sarasota Magazine and The Herald Tribune. His fiction includes sketch comedy, short stories and screenplays. “Cosmic Debris,” his latest anthology of short stories, is available on Amazon.


Su Byron

Su Byron has worked in the regional arts and cultural world for the past 25 years as a writer, an editor, and a public relations and marketing specialist. For 12 of those years, she was the co-publisher of the Sarasota Arts Review, a monthly arts and entertainment newspaper. Su is a freelance writer whose regular columns and articles appear in a host of regional and national publications.