TeBella Tea Company at Oxford Exchange is a great spot to grab a drink, especially an iced tea on a cold day. There is a chance I might be addicted to their matcha lemonade. I can neither confirm nor deny. To boost slow summer months, owner Abigail StClair organized several events for a series of Thursdays. Two weeks ago, 7th Sun Brewery held a beer and tea tasting at the tea bar. Last week, bartenders Ro Patel and Andres Aleman mixed tea-infused cocktails. Patel made what he called an “Aroma Coma,” with coconut Tyku sake, a half-ounce of gin and three-quarters of an ounce of jasmine tea. After using a brulee torch to toast a jigger of sesame oil, he spooned it on top to float among the ice cubes with sesame seeds. Aleman called his “A Mintea Dream.” The cocktail contained peach-infused Bols Genever gin, TeBella's mint julep cordial, mint and peach bitters, a splash of Champagne and grated cinnamon on top.
Their large crowd of admirers drank well that day. Kudos to StClair for creating the impromptu cocktail pop-up. INDEPENDENT IN CLEARWATER It's hard for me to believe that the Independent Bar & Cafe on Florida Avenue has been open only since 2009. The A-frame former gas-station has the feel of a place that has been in the neighborhood forever. When it opened, the Independent fortified a beachhead of cool for what has since become a bona fide dining district in Seminole Heights. Creating the indoor-outdoor beer hangout with live music gave people who didn't dig the drunk hatchery of South Howard Avenue or the mall-like atmosphere of Channelside an authentic place to chill. The Tampa bar was an extension of the original Independent in St. Petersburg, which John and Veronica Vellines opened in 2005. When the couple split, he got the St. Pete bar and, later, closed it. She took over the Tampa spot [and changed her last name. Now, Veronica Danko has opened a new Independent in Clearwater, across from the former Kapok Tree at 904 N. McMullen Booth Road. The bar opened in the former Brew Garden spot in mid-April. The grand opening took place Saturday with a German food buffet, music by The Cook Brothers Trio and flights by 7th Sun Brewery, Rapp Brewing, Barley Mow Brewing and Cigar City Brewery. With 2,600-square-feet of indoor-outdoor space, a full kitchen and up to 32 taps to play with, Danko said she plans to bring the live-entertainment vibe of the Seminole Heights bar to Clearwater. She aims to attract some of the audience that wants a bite and a beer after a show at Ruth Eckerd Hall. “We're still figuring out who our crowd is,” she said last week. “We're just now getting the word out.” The Independent Bar Clearwater is open 4 p.m. to midnight every day. GREAT SIPS -Laughing Panda IPA, made with green tea by Two Brothers Brewing, at The Stein & Vine in Brandon. -Redhook Double Black Stout. If you're looking to more efficiently drink coffee and beer, this is the one to choose. -Rootini martini cocktail at Datz in Tampa. The root beer flavor brings you in. The dollop of whipped cream on top brings you back. BEER NAME OF THE MONTH “Carrollwood Cougar” by Cigar City Brewing. The 10-gallon batch featured elegant notes of tangerine, orange, lemongrass, kumquat and sarcasm. HALFWAY TO BEER WEEK Can't wait for Tampa Bay Beer Week? Head to the Cuban Club in Ybor City at 6 p.m. Sept. 7. Two dozen vendors, most of them breweries from around the area, will be tapping specialty kegs, exclusive beers or one-off brews. Tickets are being sold at locations throughout the area. Check the Halfway To Beer Week page on Facebook. Tickets are $50 for general admission. VIP tickets are $75 and get you access the beers an hour before the general public. Each ticket comes with a commemorative tasting glass.
Bartender Ro Patel uses a brulee torch to toast sesame oil for his “Aroma Coma” cocktail during an event at TeBella.