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Top 10 2012: Bar Tab

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  • Haute Holiday (left) and Merry Mint Spice (right) at Fleming's.
    Best Bar Experiences

    Asking me to narrow down a list of the 10 “best” bars I visited this year is a tad cruel for two reasons: 1.) I have enjoyed nearly every once-weekly locale I have tried in the past 12 months, and 2.) Each has its own inimitable flavor, and I cannot compare apples to oranges (or Washington apples to screwdrivers). So, for 2012, I have simply gathered highlights from 10 addresses, and if yours is not on this list, it is not because it sucks, but because there is no space! -- By Abby Weingarten

  • fntfood20

    Pangea Lounge, 1564 Main St., Sarasota. 953-7111; sites.google.com/site/pangealoungesrq/.

    Pangea Lounge

    I know I am just one of many “we’re not worthy” devotees of Pangea Lounge. Whether it is a Blue Bee Martini with Prosecco or a Catdaddy Flip with moonshine and homemade tangerine simple syrup, bar owner and award-winning mixologist Brad Coburn is always reimagining the menu. Plus, the adjoining 1564 Main Street sandwich shop offers late-night bites, next door is scrumptious cuisine at Melange, and the Sarasota Network of Bartenders (SNoB) is a social offshoot of the speakeasy.

  • DCoySign

    Dcoy Ducks Bar and Grille, 5410 Marina Dr., Holmes Beach. 778-5888; dcoyducks.net.

    Dcoy Ducks

    Dcoy Ducks never has a cold dance floor. The Holmes Beach staple, now more than two decades running, is a watering hole for island folk as well as a platform for weekend reggae and rock bands. A $5 Phazer Tazer with Bacardi Arctic Grape Rum, DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker and Chambord liqueur is a typical, unpretentious shot. And a long taxicab home is worthy every dollar. 

  • DOpen28a.jpg

    The Bearded Clam Restaurant and Tiki Bar, 7150 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 355-2600; thebeardedclamsarasota.com.

    Bearded Clam

    Dueling pianos at the Bearded Clam kicked off in late October, with 9 p.m. performances every Friday and Saturday, which is just lounge-lizardy-cool for the city. Sing-a-longs aside, the tiki bar behind the Ramada Waterfront Hotel near Mile Marker 16 has a lengthy “Getting Freaky at the Tiki” drink menu (think bubble gum and caramel apple martinis) and a killer Big Kahuna Burger.

  • CarmelRedSangria

    Carmel Café & Wine Bar, 8433 Cooper Creek Blvd., Sarasota. 893-5955; carmelcafe.com.

    Carmel Café & Wine Bar

    When you crave a fresh Watermelon Granita cocktail and a Mediterranean hummus platter during an evening out in Cooper Creek, Carmel Café is the chic, tech-savvy fix. Focus on your entourage without waving down a server, and just type your order into a cyber MenuPad. Within minutes, you are fed, quenched and prepped for some upscale bar-hopping in nearby Lakewood Ranch.

  • celtic ray

    The Celtic Ray Irish Pub, 145 E. Marion Ave., Punta Gorda. 916-9115; celticray.net.

    The Celtic Ray Irish Pub

    Punta Gorda humor fans know the Celtic Ray Irish Pub is Marion Avenue’s up-and-coming laugh venue. The bar has burgeoned into a standup comedian’s paradise since the spring, drawing headliners from Tampa Bay and beyond for Thursday evening revues. Get a pint of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout on draught, a slice of Guinness pie and some homemade soda bread until 2 a.m.

  • CMS Photography/Chad Spencer

    Coyne’s Pier 28, 8201 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 921-0028; coynespier28.com. (CMS Photography/Chad Spencer)

    Coyne's Pier 28

    Coyne’s Pier 28 at Westfield Sarasota Square is as much about the authentic Chesapeake Bay cuisine as it is about the craft cocktails. Wash down jumbo lump Maryland crab cakes with a Tex-Mex Margarita (Tito’s Handmade Vodka, triple sec, agave nectar, jalapeno and lime juice) or a Maryland Bloody Mary with an Old Bay-seasoned rim.

  • Longtime bartender Eric Bell concocts to-die-for traditional, chocolate-espresso and pear-elderflower martinis.

    Haye Loft, 5540 Gulf of Mexico Dr., Longboat Key. 383-3633; euphemiahaye.com.

    Haye Loft

    Indulge in a triple berry glaze dessert and a chocolate-espresso martini at Euphemia Haye’s Haye Loft on Longboat Key while watching jazz musicians jam in the upstairs lounge. Bartender Eric Bell says it’s the “warm of the wood” that makes the décor so cozy, but the rattan settees and the coma-inducing treats undoubtedly contribute.

  • CrescentClub

    The Crescent Club, 6519 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key, 349-1311.

    The Crescent Club

    A throwback to its 1946 roots—in the best possible way—the Crescent Club on Siesta Key’s Midnight Pass Road has $4 Bloody Marys with giant green olives, hot dog Saturdays and an old-fashioned liquor drive through. No frills, just friendly regulars and jukebox singers, all under the dim, orangey-red glow of the bar lights.

  • Happy hour sangria features pear and mango nectars, chunks of fruit on the bottom and a blackberry garnish (also $5).

    The Table Creekside, 5365 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 921-9465; tablesrq.com.

    The Table Creekside

    In terms of bang for your happy hour buck, the Table Creekside gets a standing O. A $5 tapas and cocktails menu yields pear-mango sangria, mint-cucumber mojitos, B.L.T. martinis, bacon jam flatbread, Chilean sea bass fritters and crab-spinach fondue. You might not expect to get stuffed on gourmet cuisine in such a streamlined, posh-looking space, but trust me, then thank me.

  • Rip's Sports Bar in Venice.

    Rip’s Sports Bar, 2107 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, 497-2048.

    Rip’s Sports Bar

    It is patio weather, which means Venetians are congregating on the new outdoor deck at Rip’s Sports Bar, sinking into lounge chairs and parking cocktails on high-top surfboard tables. Try the signature drink: a “Ripped” cocktail with Bacardi 151, some Grand Marnier and Gaetano Amaretto in a brandy snifter, lit on fire. What was once Venice Sports Bar & Billiards (or “the New Bar”) is now a raging hotspot for dancers and bands.

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