Reasons to Visit Florida: A Guide to Florida Craft Distilleries
With Memorial Day passed us, it marks the unofficial start of summer vacation season for many around the country. Florida is one of the most visited travel destinations years round, with record numbers for 2016, and it’s expected to continue this year with a big boost in tourism this time of year especially. We speak from experience too, as both Lori and myself are transplants that made the leap in the 2000’s. Her family visited Disney one summer and fell in love, and made the move from Boston to Orlando. For me, I ditched the cold winters of Chicago and came to Florida for college. What I thought would be just a 4-year stay has turned into 14 years and counting with stops in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Orlando. Whether you come here for the beaches, Disney, the food, school, or the diverse cultures, there’s a LOT of good reasons to visit Florida, and this month we decided to partner with VisitFlorida.com to share on of our favorite reasons to come here: Florida Craft distilleries!
When you think of drinking in Florida you probably think of the beaches, and bright frozen drinks with little umbrellas in them, and that’s fun and all, but we’ve really stepped it up a notch with quality craft cocktails using fantastic locally sourced spirits. From “Jax” up in North Florida down to Miami and the Keys in South Florida, there are some great spirits being produced and distillery tours are a great way to drink, have fun, and get educated at the same time. We’re not saying you should plan your travel destinations based on drinking options… well, maybe we are. And if you did, this drinking guide might help make your trip a little bit easier.
960 East Forsyth Street Jacksonville, FL 32202
Manifest Distilling is downtown Jacksonville’s only full-scale distillery and features vodka, gin (traditional & barrel-aged), and will soon feature a rye whiskey. The Manifest experience allows drinkers to learn about their process of distillation, fermentation, aging, and packaging. Besides the education, tours include a tasting room where you can sample all of their spirits, free of charge. Tour hours are Friday’s and Saturdays at 3pm and 5pm and reservations are encouraged but not required.
St. Augustine Distillery Company
112 Riberia St, Saint Augustine, Florida 32084
We just had the pleasure of visiting this distillery three weeks back and we had a blast. The city itself has tons of culture, but the distillery put it over the top for us. St. Augustine Distillery is locally founded and community owned and is located in one of Florida’s oldest building, a former ice plant that is over 100 years old. Spirits made here include vodka distilled with Florida sugar cane, both a traditional & barrel-aged gin, a pot distilled rum made from select regional sugarcane, and an amazing port finished bourbon that sells out FAST. Tours are free and are offered Monday to Sunday from 10:30 am to 5pm. Each tour includes a guide of their facility, education on their production process, a free sampling of each spirit they make crafted in front of you by the on-site mixology team, and ends in their gift shop with the option to purchase spirits and souvenirs. No reservations are needed. For added fun stop in the Ice Plant bar located directly above the distillery.
Winter Park Distilling Company
1288 North Orange Avenue, Winter Park, Florida 32789
Winter Park Distilling Company is one of our favorite Florida craft distilleries, so it has a special place in our heart. It’s the local distillery here only 20 minutes from where I live, and it’s a brand we’ve worked with in the past reviewing their products during the early stages of their launch. It’s Orange County Florida’s first craft distillery and has been in production since 2010. The distillery offers tours of its facility throughout the week on the basis of advance requests and availability, and it comes at a cost of $11 per adult. Tours last approximately 35-40 minutes and features the following spirits: Genius Vodka, Dog Island Rum, Dog Island Beer barrel aged rum, Bear Gully white whiskey, Bear Gully Reserve single-barrel bourbon, and Bear Gully Classic bonfire bourbon. The newly opened Bear & Peacock Brewery taproom adjoins the Winter Park Distilling Company and serves their spirits as well as craft beer produced on site.
St. Petersburg Distillery
800 31st St. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33712
As if there wasn’t enough to do in the increasingly popular Tampa/St. Pete area, the distillery put them over the top. Tampa is home to our favorite out-of-town restaurant & bar, and another must visit, Datz Deli. St. Petersburg Distillery opened in 2014, and is home to Banyan Reserve vodka, voted best artisan vodka in 2016 by Southern Living Magazine. Other brands you can find here include Old St. Pete rum & spice, gin, whiskey, and the classic vodka as well. Additionally they house Oak & Palm spiced rum and coconut rums, Tippler’s orange liqueur, and Royal Mead honey wine. We haven’t had the chance to visit them yet, and there isn’t much information about tours available on their website, but they do have an events calendar where you’ll find them hosting events at various bars, restaurants, and social events throughout the city.
Drum Circle Distilling
2212 Industrial Blvd., Sarasota, FL 34234
Drum Circle is small artisanal distillery and the home of Sarasota’s award winning rums, Siesta Key. The only use real ingredients when creating their rums and pride themselves on a superior tasting rum assortment. Those rums include SK Toasted Coconut, SK Spiced, Distillers Reserve Spiced, Beer Barrel Finish Spiced, SK Silver and SK Gold. Free tours are available Tuesdays through Saturdays 12pm to 5pm, and take about 50 minutes to an hour. Each tour includes a history of the company, the awards they’ve won, information on their ingredients and process, as well as a discussion on barrel aging. At the end you’ll enjoy free samples in the tasting room where you can try before you buy in the gift shop.
Wicked Dolphin Rum
131 SW 3rd Place, Cape Coral, FL 33991
Wicked Dolphin got its start in 2012 and is located in one of our favorite hidden gem cities, Cape Coral, Florida. It’s on the west side and less crowded traditionally than other tourist cities. Located on 35 minutes from Florida’s fertile sugarcane fields, here they make true Florida rum in small batches using local ingredients, aged in American white oak barrels originally used for Kentucky bourbon for 3 to 14 years. Tours at Wicked Dolphin are free and will take you through the steps of how they source, distill and barrel their rums. Also you’ll get a peek at how they come up with different flavors and afterwards can sample existing rums as well as some new ones they’re working on. Be prepared if you’re visiting in the summer it can get quite hot inside the distillery but don’t worry the tasting room is fully air-conditioned. Flavors available include Crystal, Gold, Coconut, and Black rums as well as Reserve flavors such as Spiced, Silver, and Gold.
Miami Club Rum & Distillery
6468 Northwest 77th Court, Miami, FL 33166
What’s a visit to Florida without a stop in Miami? They’ve got the beaches, the nightlife, and just about everything in between. Miami Club Rum is Miami’s first distillery and combines local craftsmanship, superior local ingredients, and a distinct aging process, infused with music, to create a smooth and unique experience. Music and alcohol? It’s Miami, so why not? Tours are by appointment only and run Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm and will cost you $12 per adult.
Tallahassee – All Saints Distilling Company
Key West – Hemingway Rum Company Distillery
So as you can see, there’s a LOT to do in Florida that isn’t just the usual tip to Disney or the beach. If you’re headed this way, make sure to check out one of these awesome Florida craft distilleries in a city near you. For more information on where to go and things to do in Florida the next time you’re in the sunshine state, be sure to check out VisitFlorida.com