1 At Beach Road Wine Bar and Bistro you can select from 70 outstanding wines, craft beers and wine-based cocktails and a menu of creative offerings. Try the white sangria, created with white zinfandel, ginger ale, oranges and lemons and Prosecco. Order a pitcher on the deck overlooking the postcard-perfect waters of Lemon Bay. 1350 Beach Road, Englewood, (941) 474-9500.
2 For a grown-up twist on a kiddie classic, how about creamsicle with a dash of vodka? Flounders proudly presents the Creamsicle Crush—a divine combination of a freshly squeezed orange and Smirnoff’s whipped cream vodka. The bartenders top it off with a splash of Triple Sec and Sprite. With water views, a tiki bar, hearty pub grub and live music most nights, we think their slogan, “The place to be on Manasota Key” rings true. 1975 Beach Road, Englewood; (941) 460-8280.
3 Vino Loco Gourmet boasts a wine bar (300-plus global varieties) and artisanal cheeses and tapas. Quench your thirst with a glass of Perucchi Vermouth, a Spanish vermouth that is hand-crafted from fortified wines mixed with plants, herbs and roots. This classy aperitif goes well with Chef Katrina’s tapas menu, which changes weekly. 420 W. Dearborn St., Englewood, (941) 473-8466.
4 British Open Pub’s signature cocktail is called Pub Punch. “The history of punch is firmly rooted among the British and the early American colonists,” says owner Kelly Olliver. “And our Pub Punch is a little sweet, a little spicy, and a bit strong.” It’s made of four fruit juices, vodka, rum, coconut rum, spices and a splash of Sprite to top it off. 367 Jacaranda Blvd., Venice, (941) 492-9227.
5 Feeling crabby? Get your claws on a Crabby Bloody Mary at the Blue Lagoon Restaurant—an appetizer and cocktail in one powerful package. Served in a tall glass, this filling drink is garnished with a fried, soft-shell crab with olives for eyes and two cocktail shrimp. Underlying the appetizer are the 16 ounces of a classic Bloody Mary. 2000 Oyster Creek Drive, Englewood, (941) 475-1030.
6 The creative minds at The Crow’s Nest are shaking things up with a Ginberry martini made of fresh muddled strawberries, Hendricks gin, cucumber-infused organic crop vodka and a dash of St. Germain elderflower liqueur. As general manager Will McNabb puts it, “We’re constantly changing up our cocktail list to keep people’s taste buds alert and open to new creations.” 1968 Tarpon Center Drive, Venice, (941) 484-9551.
7 Direct from the French Riviera to the Mango Bistro comes the sweet and très refreshing Ice Tropez, a sparkling wine cocktail created in Saint Tropez and being consumed by les hip and chic around the world. It’s a mix of rose wine, fizzy water and peach juice—scintillating yet low in alcohol. Sit back with this tasty treat and dig the cafe’s colorful decor, artful gifts and live world music. 301 W. Dearborn St., Englewood, (941) 681-3500.
8 If James Bond visited Venice, he’d order a Lemon Basil Martini at Café Venice Restaurant and Wine Bar. This kicky concoction is a mix of Deep Eddy’s lemon vodka (all natural and gluten free), homemade basil simple syrup, and a freshly squeezed lemon wedge and basil leaf—served up in a martini glass with a dry basil sugar rim. Order it shaken, not stirred, and let the adventure begin. 116 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 484-1855.
Our “8 Great” lists are not listed in order of preference.