New Smyrna's Only Speakeasy and the Cocktail Renaissance
Jul 14, 2022 at 8:00 AM in Just for Fun by
Like a flame to a chef, it is said ice is to a skilled bartender…
Craft cocktail making has become a culinary art form. Creamy martinis and exotic rum drinks are exquisitely photographed like centerfolds in travel and food magazines. Tantalizing flavor profiles we drink in with our eyes leave little to the imagination.
We're in the midst of a Craft Cocktail Renaissance and going full send this weekend at New Smyrna Beach's one and only speakeasy, The Bounty at Flagler Tavern.
Owners Theo Mundell and Sherman Reid gleaned inspiration for The Bounty’s blueprint from traveling the world; Always seeking out small taverns, a tall tale and great libations.
The Bounty is quite different from the rest of Flagler Tavern in that regard. It feels intimate and a bit regal like captains quarters in a ye olde sailing ship. A couple turn of the century textiles preserved from this once historic home add to the feel. Exposed brickwork can be traced to a local brickmaker operating in the 1900s and the rough hewn cladding lining the walls was repurposed from original floorboards.
Creative bartenders at The Bounty experiment with small batch rums, aged whiskeys and velvety smooth tequilas. There are 11 delicious signature offerings here that will ground your tastebuds in the moment, way beyond the reach of glossy magazines.
Cocktails are mixed with the utmost care using nectars and house made simple syrups like The Bounty’s lavender honey syrup [🍹: Landlocked Lavender Drop]. Thoughtfully prepared garnishes including bruleed banana slices [🍹: Monkey Business] or a caramelized lime wheel [🍹: Coastal Mule] add culinary flair.
Craft mixology’s most invaluable lesson is that ice can make or break a cocktail. The Bounty machines three different types of ice (spherical, square and chipped) in house for this reason. We began to appreciate why while sipping our cocktails by the deck rails on The Bounty’s second story balcony, people watching the street scene below. Ice size and shape regulate a cocktail's consistency and temperature.
Wanting to sample the savory and the sweet, we ordered two rounds.
Round one [🍹: Smoke Show] was a savory yet refreshing nod to what can only be described as a smoky margarita. The Smoke Show combines chili and cilantro bitters with mezcal and another handcrafted tequila, fresh lime juice and agave nectar over square ice with jalapeño and blackberries.
Round two [🍹: Espresso Martini] was our dessert round, a silky signature martini using freshly brewed espresso. Brewed espresso, crema and all, is shaken with ice, Grind Espresso Liqueur, Bailey’s Irish Cream and whipped vodka. Three espresso beans are garnished in the creama con la mosca, Italian for “with the fly” after the pour. Beans are set in a petal formation symbolizing health, wealth and happiness.
While learning about our selected drinks, we took in a little history about cocktail culture too:
Spirits, sugar, water and bitters ~It's what defines an American Cocktail and ice has bound those ingredients together since the East Coast Ice Trade was established in 1806. Though cocktail culture was on the rise worldwide in the early 1900s, Prohibition in America stifled much of the artistry involved.
The quality of early American spirits during Prohibition was questionable. Diluted concoctions were necessary to mask notoriously dry and foul tasting bathtub gins that came to replace aged whiskies, beer and wine.
Some home distillers diluted spirits with water and iodine to replicate the foul taste of bathtub gins to legitimize their brands. One of America’s most prolific rum runners, William McCoy, began his business as a local ship builder 20 miles north of New Smyrna Beach in Holly Hill. Because McCoy never diluted his spirits, they became known as the Real McCoy. McCoy reportedly controlled an oceanic smuggling route spanning from Canada to the Bahamas.
Although rum and the Tiki-culture of Hollywood's golden age ignited a cocktail resurgence, by the 1950s the craft was lost again. Commercially batched mixes and powders short-cut traditional cocktail recipes.
America’s obsession with craft beer is credited for the cocktail renaissance we’re experiencing now. Home brewers began micro-breweries in the late ‘90s. Appreciation for well balanced cocktails and small batch distilleries followed.
There are a couple great craft distilleries considered local to the New Smyrna Beach area and another worth a day trip to St. Augustine if wanting to procure your own Florida spirits. They are: