Toast Your Way Around Our Islands
In Fort Myers, there are plenty of cool places at which to raise a glass and be festive whether a holiday or specific occasion warrants it. While craft cocktails used to be something of a rarity in these parts, that’s no longer the case. With a host of creative bartenders and even a couple of local distilleries conjuring up interesting liquors, drink options are fun, fancy and, in some cases, downright surprising.
So, without further ado, let’s take a tour of twenty prime spots to enjoy libations – and perhaps a bite or two - as we gratefully enjoy ourselves.
1. Chartreuse Craft Cocktail Bar and Dessert Lounge
This downtown Bonita Springs newcomer opened in June featuring Chartreuse-infused cocktails, low- and non-alcoholic beverages and desserts crafted by the nearby Survey Cafe. The place has a 1920s-‘30s feel, which was the heyday of the namesake French liqueur.
2. Coconut Jack's Waterfront Grille
A great view of Fish Trap Bay pairs well with whatever you’re drinking, particularly at sunset, although it’s lovely all the time. Jack’s offers those fruity, frosty coladas, as well as margaritas, classic martinis and other specialty beverages. On the side, consider one of the seafood plates or a burger or steak.
3. Cork Soakers Deck & Wine Bar
This lively spot offers an eclectic mix of edibles and drinkables. Consider the Mother’s Punch – aka Mo Punch – featuring mango, passionfruit, pineapple rum, a dash of cranberry, orange juice, Sprite and fresh lime. On Sundays only, you can (and should) order the Bitch Slap Bloody Mary, which comes in a Ball jar and is topped with enough goodies to constitute a meal unto itself.
This funky-chic hangout features seating at the bar, in the lounge or outdoors along the marina. Gather offers a wealth of intriguing adult beverages artfully created with items such as bruleed citrus peels, house-made bitters and spice syrups blended with top-drawer liquors.
5. Good Intentions Uncorked
How can you lose with a name like that? Roger Olson and Duane Jahner stock their wine bar with a host of interesting varietals from Italy, Portugal, France, Spain, Argentina and less well-known spots such as Croatia and the Republic of Georgia. That means you’ll get the opportunity to taste wines made with grapes such as Malvazija and Plavac Mali, which are used in Croatian varieties. Most glasses on the menu go for $6-$12 with bottles priced at $15-$48, with some exceptions.
6. Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro
Marker 92 and its sister eatery, The Nauti Mermaid, are situated at The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Tarpon Point. The bar features local beers and crafty cocktails, while the menu brims with seafood and steaks. Naturally, there’s a great view of the water.
7. Nice Guys Pizza
Pizza lovers, late-night diners, vegans and those who shun gluten all find plenty to eat here and while beer is in the name, cocktails are also their game. You never know what the barkeep will conjure up. How about the Kind of Blue, with butterfly pea flower gin, plum bitters, lavender, citrus and egg? Lots of beer here, too, and a welcoming atmosphere.
8. The Mucky Duck
Sunset at this Gulf-front restaurant is virtually a religious ritual. And it’s always observed – or should be – with a festive wine-based cocktail procured at the outside bar. Hang out at a table or in one of the many Adirondack chairs and savor the sunset, then head inside for a pub meal.
9. The Saloon
The Saloon has plenty of food – crab cakes, shrimp, barbecue, salads – but it’s clear that drinks are what counts as the beverage list outweighs the menu for food. Consider Off to See the Wizard, an otherworldly blend of an espresso shot, Tia Maria, Van Gogh Double Espresso, Cardamaro and 3 Beans for luck, or perhaps Redemption, a blend of Redemption rye, chocolate bitters and cherry ice. There are margaritas, mojitos, Moscow mules, martinis and loads of liquors you can order on the rocks, straight up or in any combination you choose.
10. Beacon Social Drinkery
With a name that includes “social drinkery” in it, you know someone is serious about beverages. This new establishment is situated on the 12th floor of the Luminary Hotel in downtown Fort Myers, affording great views of the Caloosahatchee and is a choice spot for those who like a sunset with their beverages. As you might expect, there are plenty of cocktails on offer with a smattering of shareable plates.
11. The Boathouse Tiki Bar & Grill
Here’s a place where you can have your cocktail and hang out in the pool or play in the sand. An open-air restaurant, it offers bar food, massive TVs, a roomy pool, cornhole and lots of comfy Adirondack chairs in which to lounge. It’s another prime spot for sunsets and cocktails.
12. The Firestone Skybar & Martini Bar
The original downtown rooftop bar – known as the Skybar – offers expansive views of the Caloosahatchee and the downtown area and is another popular sunset gathering spot. The rooftop level of this multi-story restaurant features picturesque views of the Caloosahatchee and downtown Fort Myers.
13. Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grill
Named for the hero of local bestselling author Randy Wayne White’s novels, this Caribbean-themed watering hole and restaurant offers great water views, interesting food and lots and lots of rum drinks (along with other adult selections)doc ford’s rum bar.
14. Parrot Key Caribbean Grill
Overlooking the waters of Matanzas Pass, this sprawling, mostly open-air restaurant features fruity, uh “cockateils,” tropical takes on seafood, and pub classics. There’s even a beverage dedicated to our last big blow, the Hurricane Irma, made with light and dark rum, orange juice and grenadine.
15. PierSide Grill and Famous Blowfish Bar
Since 1996, this Gulf-front restaurant has been a place to dig your feet into the sand while enjoying a frozen cocktails. Try an order of PierSide's famous beach bread with that.
16. Rae's Real Italian
The Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina’s restaurant serves Italian and coastal favorites, along with panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico and its spectacular sunsets. Another option: Hang out poolside with a frosty cocktail at Bongo’s Bar & Grill.
17. Sunset Beach Tropical Grill and The Playmore Tiki Bar
Known for its tropical cocktails and beachfront views, this venue also offers a menu filled with steaks, seafood, salads and sandwiches. Start off with a Miami Vice – a blend of pina colada and strawberry daiquiri – or try a Chi Chi – a blend of coconut and pineapple mixed with your favorite vodka.
18. Tarpon Lodge
Take a trip back into Old Florida with a visit to this fishing lodge with all of its authentic trappings. You can eat in the dining room (where there’s a spectacular view of sunset) or spend a bit of time in the cozy bar. The beverages and food here are memorable, as are the sunsets.
19. Sweet Melissa’s Café
Sanibel Island is known for shells and beaches, but craft cocktails? Not so much. Nonetheless, Sweet Melissa’s stellar chef Melissa Donahue offers creative cocktails that rival her impressive lineup of great edibles. Consider the “Smoke Gets in Your Rye” Manhattan – house-smoked Bulleit rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Scrappy’s bitters and a cherry king-sized ice cube – or the Coconut-Mint Mojito – Wicked Dolphin coconut rum (from Cape Coral), coconut water, fresh mint, fresh lime juice and club soda over ice. Wine lovers will appreciate her Wine Spectator Award of Excellence wine list as well.
20. 400 Rabbits
Mexican-inspired food and a full-fledged tequila bar make this relative newcomer worth a visit. There’s also mezcal on offer, tequila flights and margaritas. Specialty drinks include the whimsically named Chupacabra, consisting of 400 Conejos mezcal, pineapple puree, fresh lime juice, agave, rosemary and a salt rim, as well as the Full Mescal Jacket, with 400 Conejos mezcal, fresh lime juice, agave and aquafaba, served with cucumber and basil.
Written by Karen Feldman