It helps a bartender to have a flair for showmanship. A well-made drink tastes a little bit better when a few more tricks are applied to the glass.
No, that doesn't mean dangling a paper umbrella over the rim.
At a recent competition for Fernet-Branca spirit at Social in St. Petersburg, Kamran Mir of Czar in Tampa blew away a very talented group of bartenders with his Root Beer Float made with a homemade root beer syrup.
But what put it over the top was a dash of showmanship: A couple of pieces of dry ice in each shaker to cool the drink before pouring it into the glass.
The photo here doesn't do it justice.
The best part: Mir didn't need the gimmick. This was already a great drink before the dry ice. The root beer syrup was meticulously made. The volcano-looking dry ice just finished the effect.
Mir has a great flair for the unusual with his drinks. During a cocktail challenge last year, he rimmed his glass with Hawaiian black lava sea salt and garnished with a slice of jalapeño.
For his Fernet victory, Mir took home a stylish bike and some product. He's among the best the Bay area has behind the bar.
REPEAL DAY PARTY AHEAD
The fourth incarnation of the local U.S. Bartenders' Guild's Repeal Day Party celebrating the end of Prohibition takes place at 8 p.m. Dec. 1 once again at the Don Vicente de Ybor Hotel in Ybor City.
This is the biggest cocktail event of the year. Last year's sold-out party featured themed party rooms throughout the Don Vicente serving vintage cocktails from a variety of eras. It quickly has become one of the premier Prohibition-themed parties in the nation.
For tickets, go online to repealdayparty.com.
Tropic Funk IPA made with guava by Three Palms Brewing at its tasting room in Brandon.
A 2008 Casalvento Chianti Classico served at Council Oak Steak House in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino during the Donatella Arpaia tribute dinner. Perfect pairing with red wine braised short ribs.
Ulele Maiden Voyage beer at the Steve Otto Chili Cook-Off during Smoke on the Water. Brewmaster Tim Shackton's beer was used in executive chef Eric Lackey's award-winning chili.
E.A.T. ST. PETE...BUT NO DRINK
For a first-year celebrity-choked food fest, the unfortunately named Enjoy Arts & Tastes St. Pete food, arts and wine festival was great fun.
A solid starter kit of local flavors was represented. Salt Rock Grill plated delicious crab cakes with mango salsa. Green Mint Asian Grill's grilled pork bun with vermicelli rice noodles was tasty. Mazzarro's chunks of carved parmesan with truffle honey were decadent. The bed of oysters on the half shell was a great touch by the Central Avenue Oyster Bar — even if the oysters came from Texas, not Florida.
But where were the local sips? With all of the great new local breweries in St. Petersburg, there wasn't one local beer included in the shindigs I went to. I hope they fix that if they do another one of these things. Every first-year event has issues getting off the ground, but that was a glaring omission. The brewing scene in St. Pete is too important not to include them next year.
COCKTAILS IN KEGS
At Dough, the little sister to Datz next door on south MacDill Avenue in Tampa, there isn't much room for a bar. The bakery/bistro tried boozy milkshakes a couple of months back but hasn't done much with the alcohol side of its operation.
Recently, local U.S. Bartenders' Guild member Justin Gray suggested to owner Suzanne Perry that she add pre-mixed cocktails to the menu using keg taps.
The café now serves a rotating mix of two cocktails that change weekly. Most recently they included a Framboise Fizz made with raspberry vodka, chardonnay and a framboise lambic beer. For the holidays, she plans on a Pama Pomegranate with sweet apple cider, Tito's vodka and Fireball cinnamon whiskey.