We're going to let you in on a little secret: St. Augustine is getting cool. Very cool.
We've noticed this for a while, reporting about spots like The Floridian and macaroon shop Bon Ami. This weekend, Mumford & Sons takes the Gentlemen of the Road to St. Augustine on one of only three tour spots in North America.
Now, one more reason. Today, Ice Plant Bar and Bottle Shop opens in the oldest city in America. Featuring 19 craft cocktails, it's the first step in a total restoration of St. Augustine's historic Ice Plant building. Vacant for years, local entrepreneur Philip McDaniel is renovating the building, which once manufactured ice to support Florida's fishing industry.
On one side of the Ice Plant, which has been painstakingly restored to restore the building to the way it looked in 1920s: A distillery, developed by Brandon Wheatley, who has worked on various distillery projects around the South. Among the products he's developing: whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum. Visitors to the distillery (to open in early 2014) will learn about Florida's history with sugar cane, and taste products made with heirloom sugar cane varieties.
But first, the Ice Plant's cocktail bar and restaurant are scheduled to open today, just in time for people traveling from all over the South (and the country) for the Gentlemen of the Road Tour.
What to expect: Paying homage to the building's roots, the bar has an impressive array of ice, including three kinds of ice makers to produce the magical frozen stuff perfect for discerning palates. There's food too (think: seasonal pickle plates and hand cut fries.) The the main attraction, as restaurant general manager and co-owner Patricia McLemore says (pictured right), is the cocktails.
Head bartender Zach Lynch (formerly of Orlando's Prato) has created a menu with cocktails like the "Florida Mule" (cane vodka, ginger syrup, lime and soda; $10), the "Flagler Billionaire" (Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whiskey, lemon, sugar, grenadine, and pernod; $12). Also on the menu: punches that serve eight, like the "Fish Camp" (Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum, Meukow Cognac, house made peach brandy, Demerara, lemon, and nutmeg; $50).
The project, which Phillip says is designed to attract tourists and those fond of craft cocktails, is intended to spark a renaissance in St. Augustine's Linconville neighborhood.
"The time is right for people to rediscover St. Augustine," he says.
Ice Plant is located at 110 Riberia Street, St. Augustine, FL.