Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beach Fun and Cocktails with Rum in Englewood, Florida

Winter in the American Midwest can be depressing. Snow, cold, and wind can bring on 6 months of torturous cabin fever. After the holidays there is not much to look forward to until April, and even then you could get a blizzard. Who the hell would live here? The only way to beat the awful decision we've made to live up north is to get out for a while and find palm trees and beaches. And when we untanned souls from the north find a beach our instincts tell us to (besides strip off our Wigwam socks) find fruity cocktails loaded with rum and little umbrellas. There are many beach locales to enjoy, but when I was introduced to the beaches and rum cocktails of Englewood, Florida I found my go to spot for a a break from the reality of winter.

You say you've never heard of Englewood before? You aren't alone. Englewood is one of the least "developed" communities along Florida's beautiful southwestern Gulf coast. Unlike Venice, Sarasota, and Bradenton to the north, the beaches in Englewood have no high rise condos or hotel chains. Englewood is as close to the picture of old school Florida I get in my head with it's white sand beaches and colorful local shops and eateries.

The wonderful white sands of Englewood Beach
The main beach in Englewood is, well, Englewood Beach. There are 3 other beaches on Manasota Key (the barrier island for Englewood) and those are Manasota Beach, Blind Pass Beach, and the completely undeveloped Stump Pass Beach State Park. For the duration of our time in Englewood we relaxed at Englewood Beach, but we look forward to walking the white sands of Stump Pass Beach as well in the future. Like I mentioned, Englewood Beach has little development beyond it's local bars, restaurants, and shops. So once the sun had set on our day at the beach, instead of cramming into a hotel bar, we got to walk down the street and try some local drinks at local places, YAY!

Elephant Punch!!
Our first stop was The White Elephant Pub. The White Elephant sits right across the street from Englewood Beach and it backs up to Lemon Bay which is perfect for boating in for a few drinks. The White Elephant also serves local fresh caught food to enjoy and has nightly musical entertainment. We were there for karaoke night, which after a few cocktails can always be entertaining. Unfortunately we were also there on a "cooler" evening, so sitting outside wasn't ideal. Nonetheless we forged ahead for those Florida rum cocktails. My go to drink, and recommendation for your go to, was the appropriately named Elephant Punch. This was my first beach drink and it didn't miss. The recipe for Elephant Punch was: Rum (shocker), Amaretto, Pineapple and Orange Juice, and a splash of grenadine. As the menu stated, "this is that fruity beach drink", and it didn't miss.

On to the Florida Punch!!
After we finished our drinks it was time to move one door up the beach to Flounders Restaurant and Tiki Bar. We skipped the restaurant and headed to the tiki bar, as Florida rum was the dinner of choice. Flounders was a great little place, again right across from Englewood Beach, with indoor dining and an outdoor area for drinks and music. Since it was still a cool night, Flounders had weather shades up to help keep everyone a little warmer. On warm nights though the tiki bar area is all open air, plus they've created their own little beach entertainment area on Lemon Bay for drinking and games. The drinks at Flounders were fantastic. We dove into the "Florida Punch" and "A Day at the Beach". Both drinks consisted of coconut rum and grenadine. The Florida Punch added peach schnapps and pineapple juice. A Day at the Beach was topped off with amaretto and orange juice. While we were at Flounders there was live music which is a regular occurrence at Flounders. This was our last stop of the night as the Englewood Beach bars do close by 11.

The next day we were introduced to the drink we kept hearing a lot about in Englewood, Voodoo Juice, served up at Farlow's on The Water. Farlow's is located on Rock Creek, a small inlet coming off of Lemon Bay. Farlow's is not on Englewood Beach, but it's location on the water, palm tress, and boardwalk/outdoor drinking patio gave it a great tropical vibe. We ate and had day drinks at Farlow's and both were a top notch experience. The menu was loaded with fresh caught fish I had never even heard of, and Voodoo Juice, a drink I had heard of but never tried.

The infamous Voodoo Juice of Englewood, FL
Voodoo Juice is a monster rum drink served in a souvenir bucket. The recipe for Voodoo Juice consists of 4 different rums (coconut, banana, pineapple, and guava). After the rum comes pineapple, orange, and cranberry juice. Last but not least a top off of Blackstrap Rum adds more flavor and a finishing color. To say that I loved Voodoo Juice would be an understatement. I could have drank this tropical drink from heaven all day (not really because I would have been in bed before sunset). The meal along with the drink was amazing as well. When not at the beach, day or night, Farlow's on The Water is a must hit in Englewood, and next time I can't wait to try some of their frozen drinks as well as long as the weather cooperates.

We look forward to a return to Englewood
We were "unlucky"(I use the term unlucky not as a complaint) when it came to the weather for our trip to Englewood. We ran into the coldest weather Florida had seen in years. Compared to home it was still amazing and we still filled our time with outdoor activities, but for a few days the beaches weren't a viable option and it was disappointing as the beaches are just gorgeous. Also frozen drinks were off the radar as they just don't taste the same when it's 42 degrees out at night. This obviously was not a fault of the area as the whole of Florida was under a "deep freeze". Even with a battle against mother nature our time in Englewood was fantastic, as were the drinks and places to grab them. If you are looking for a more laid back, less touristed beach locale in Florida, with some of the best sand (and rum cocktails) you need to head to this small town on Southwest Florida's Gulf Coast.