By Craig Chapman

The revival of the art of craft cocktails has been alive and thriving for quite some time now. Gone are the days of simple rum and sodas or over-processed, syrupy juices used to create a cheap apple martini. These days freshness is in and craft cocktails are being taken to new levels with fresh squeezed juices, liquors infused in-house, fresh muddled herbs, and simple syrups made from scratch with ingredients like fresh grated ginger or steeped hibiscus leaves. These three local bars/restaurants have offerings with freshness on their menu in big and delicious ways!

After years of serving bad quality, frozen, overly sweet, watered down, “beachy” drinks, Mixologist and Bar Manager Jonathan Stutte at Crush Eleven got frustrated.

“There are just better things to serve and that’s what got me into the fresher, more refined aspects. The kind of cocktails that we’re doing here, I got into making for myself at home. It’s amazing the change in quality from using store bought juices to juicing your own items yourself.”

Everything at the Crush Eleven bar is fresh.

“Fresh ingredients get changed out daily. We do our own sour mixes, purees, shrubs, and simple syrups. We use a lot of fresh fruits, berries, herbs, root vegetables like ginger that we use in ginger simple syrups,” said Jonathan. “We change the menu fairly often, by season or whatever is fresh ingredient-wise.”

The food coming out of the kitchen at Crush Eleven also keeps Jonathan on his toes. “The kitchen, they are doing such an amazing job in the kitchen. It’s almost like a competition to keep our cocktails on par with the food.”

While Crush Eleven’s cocktail menu is always changing they do keep a few favorites on the menu. “One of the favorites is the Bacon Infused Bourbon Old Fashioned, which has house-made maraschino cherries, done with orange juice, bourbon, vanilla, orange zest, maple syrup, bacon bourbon wash, and Old Scout bourbon out of West Virginia. It has a nice taste to it. It’s finished off with candied bacon.”

The two drinks we had on our visit were equally delicious and one was non-alcoholic which was a refreshing surprise. The first was another house favorite, the sweet and tangy Crazelberry Mojito, which features fresh cranberries and raspberries, maple syrup, lime, mint and Ron Zucapa Rum. The second was the non-alcoholic option which included muddled fennel, two parts fresh squeezed orange juice, one part orange simple syrup, and three parts soda water garnished with a fresh orange slice and fennel sprig. Both were the perfect quenchers.

Next time you’re on a stroll through Cocoa Village, be sure to stop in to Crush Eleven for an uplifting cocktail experience.

Crush Eleven
11 Riverside Drive, Cocoa Village
(321) 634-1100

Imagine hanging your toes in the ocean, celebrating the sunset, and sipping a cool, refreshing, summer cocktail… Welcome to the vibe at Hemingway’s. A fresh new restaurant offering equally as fresh ideas when it comes to cocktails and food.

Hemingway’s started out of the gate with the idea of serving garden fresh food and cocktails. Bartender Caroline Runyon explains, “Our approach, not just for the cocktail menu but everything we do in the restaurant, is trying to keep things as fresh and as Florida as possible. We try to stick to local produce and ingredients and everything behind the bar is going to have nice island flavor to it.”

Hemingway’s laid-back vibe offers the perfect setting to just kick back and sip on one of their many fresh made cocktails. Caroline shared two customer favorites with us that were both spot on.
“Our hibiscus margarita is a classic island style margarita. We use only fresh squeezed lime juice and we use hibiscus syrup that we make in-house. We take fresh hibiscus leaves and reduce them down with sugar and water to make the syrup and then it has 1800 Tequila in it. So it’s going to be nice and light and it has a little bit of a floral note to it because of the hibiscus. It’s a great flavor that you can have anytime of the year and it’s not too sweet.”

The next cocktail combined a bit of citrus with herbs, basil to be exact. “The grapefruit basil martini has fresh red grapefruit juice, fresh squeezed lime juice, a little pure agave nectar, Finlandia grapefruit vodka, and fresh basil leaves. It has a nice refreshing flavor, not too tart because we add the agave nectar so it is a very well-rounded cocktail,” Caroline describes. Part of keeping it fresh is also rotating the cocktail menu seasonally, Caroline says, “We’re releasing our spring and summer cocktails.”

Leigh Hinton, the operations director for Hemingway’s, sums up the overall approach to its food and drinks perfectly. “We started with Key West and then drew in Hemingway which opened up a large culinary experience: Cuba, the islands, France, Spain, Italy, and all the other places he used to travel. We make everything as fresh as possible. We let the food speak for itself and try not to do anything too complicated.”

Simple, relaxing and fresh — three words that summarize Hemingway’s almost perfectly.

Hemingway’s Tavern
1800 W. Hibiscus Blvd., Suite 115, Melbourne
(321) 802-9648

Ericka Hash is no stranger to Viera’s Pizza Gallery & Grill, “I’ve been working here for 13 years. I’m now the bar manager and event coordinator.” She holds down their newly renovated bar with Jeremy Lambert, a bartender and server.

With the new renovation came the opportunity for Ericka to take their cocktail offerings to a whole new level, so she did. “I was getting bored with just the normal vodka cranberry or gin and tonic. I like to try different things when I go out and I wanted to do cool things here. I live here (in Brevard) so I wanted to bring something to the table, something a little bit different.”

Ericka decided on the “garden to glass” approach to crafting cocktails and its new menu reflects every bit of freshness that goes in to creating next level cocktails. “We have about 20 drinks right now. We are getting a bourbon barrel to infuse bourbons so we will have an actually barrel sitting on our back bar and we can infuse it with fruits and spices.”

As an example, Ericka and Jeremy muddled up two of their house favorites. “We have the Southern Gentlemen, it has muddled blackberries, a house-made ginger syrup, aged bourbon  and some ginger beer. The Bella Rosa has muddled basil, lemon, lime, and strawberries with vodka. It’s good and refreshing. A lot of people think, ‘Basil, in a drink?’ but it really works.”

When creating the new cocktail menu Ericka wanted it to reflect the overall theme of the restaurant, “Where Food Becomes Art.”

“I wanted to bring that to the bar too, ‘Where Drinks Become Art.’ We are really big into garnishing and making drinks look good because everyone takes pictures of their food now. You want to make sure you’re proud of it.”

Ericka continues with the philosophy behind her new cocktail menu.

“I’m counting on people wanting to try different things and step out of the box. It may cost a little bit more, but it’s because you get better quality and better ingredients. The younger generation is more traveled. You go other places and try all these new things and you come back home and you crave them. So to find a place like Pizza Gallery that’s doing that is pretty cool.”

Pizza Gallery’s new and improved bar feels like an urban retreat. Located in the back of the restaurant facing the beautiful courtyard at The Avenue Viera. It’s the perfect place to pop in, relax, and finish off a long day of retail therapy with a cocktail.

Pizza Gallery & Grill
2250 Town Center Avenue, Suite 113, Viera
(321) 633-0397