Pensacola, Florida
Saturday September 20th 2014

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Best of the Coast ’13: Drink

Under the Red Lights
“Our unique atmosphere is something that really grabs a hold of you when you step through the door,” said Fred Touchette, co-owner of The Elbow Room, which celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this month. “Besides an updated menu, extended beer and wine selection, and a collection of board games for entertainment, The Elbow Room has remained essentially unchanged since it opened its doors in 1963,” Touchette said, noting one slight difference: “Now we can just buy red light bulbs instead of buying regular white bulbs and spray painting them red like Jim used to do back in the day.” Awash in its signature soft red light, the retro bar art and an old-school jukebox are just part of The Elbow Room’s comforting appeal. Combined with its tasty food selection and famous champagne cocktails, you have the makings of one of Pensacola’s most beloved and unique establishments. “My favorite aspect of being a part of The Elbow Room is the appreciation that our regulars and the new fans of The Elbow Room share,” Touchette said. “We all share a special bond over what some people believe to be one of Pensacola’s best kept secrets.”  2213 W. Cervantes St.

Pensacola’s Irish Pub
If you’ve ever longed to drink at an authentic Irish pub, you don’t have to travel too far. “When we opened 13 years ago, Pensacola needed a real Irish pub,” said owner Seamas Hunt. “With an owner straight from Ireland, it can’t get any more real.” A transplant from County Wicklow Ireland, Hunt gave co-owner Gary Humphrey, a tour of Irish pubs on a trip back home. Humphrey was evidently impressed. Customers regularly visit Paddy O’ Leary’s for a variety of reasons, Hunt said. Namely, the great happy hour, spanning from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., local bands, friendly staff and authenticity. Perhaps the pub’s local fame comes from its signature shot, the Irish 
Carbomb. Drink 20 and you are rewarded with a t-shirt. The drink originated in Norwich, Conn. in 1979 when someone accidentally let a shot of Irish whiskey fall into a half pint of Guinness and decided to drink it anyway. Paddy’s has perfected the concoction over the years. “We use the right glass—the 20-ounce imperial pint glass, we use draft Guinness from Ireland and we have experimented with many Irish whiskeys and creams to get the perfect taste,” Hunt said. 49 Via De Luna, Pensacola Beach, paddyolearysirishpub.com

Unleashing Your Inner Child
“We treat everyone as family because when you’re a small neighborhood bar, everyone is family,” said Ed Banacia, co-owner of Play, downtown Pensacola’s own “barcade.” Play is home to a multitude of arcade video games, a skee ball league, karaoke, and trivia nights to name just a few activities. Sort of like a grown up version of your coolest childhood friend’s rec room. “Times are tough out here. Despite the gentrification of downtown Pensacola, the ugly truth is our county has the lowest median income in the entire state,” said Banacia. “We keep this in mind every single day. We price accordingly.” While this consideration keeps patrons coming back to Play, Banacia said their popularity is no cause for complacency. “We are constantly rotating games, experimenting with promotions and specials and looking to book new entertainment.” Though the theme of the bar is lighthearted, Banacia stresses the pride he feels as part of the Palafox rebirth, “Looking to the future, we know there’s more work to be done such as affordable housing and a true mixed use of downtown. The best part about having a business here is looking to the potential of what’s yet to come.” 16 S. Palafox, Suite 200, iplaypensacola.com

Shake it like the 
Sandshaker
Are you in the mood for a blend of sand and fun, topped off with a prime deck view to watch the sunset over the water? Not only has Sandshaker Lounge & Package, or ‘the Shaker’ as it is classically referred, been a staple beach bar for the past 40 years, it’s the proud home of the infamous Bushwacker. “The thing that makes our Bushwackers so special is the recipe is the same as it was back in the ’70s,” explained Beverly Campbell, co-owner and manager. “All batches are made by hand and not from a mix. One of the main ingredients in our Bushwackers is Kahlua. We have chosen to keep using this high end liqueur in our recipe instead of substituting for a less expensive coffee liqueur product.” Not only are they top shelf—these signature drinks are endlessly customizable. Yes, you can even get a banana split Bushwacker if your heart so desires. Still, it doesn’t stop with the Bushwackers, or the drinks even. “It’s a friendly environment where you can dress down or dress up—doesn’t matter,” said Campbell. “We get all ages, all walks of life. It’s truly a gathering place for people to meet and relax.” 731 Pensacola Beach Blvd., sandshaker.com

Leader of the Pack
From boom to bingo, morning coffee to afternoon salad bars, blues to karaoke, Seville Quarter finds ways to appeal to the masses, on top of raking up kudos for not only offering the best night club experience on the coast, but being ranked in the top 100 night clubs in the nation. “We’ve been in business a long time and people are comfortable in a fun atmosphere,” said Buck Mitchell. “We have great local and out of town customers, and some of the best entertainment anywhere on the Gulf Coast.” Recurring acts, special events, festivals and more, Seville even plays host to booths upon booths of local artists just outside its doors on Gallery Nights. “Downtown is hot and Seville Quarter is the leader of the pack,” said Mitchell. 130 E. Government St., sevillequarter.com

Mixology Masters
On any given night at Vinyl Music Hall you may find yourself starting the evening giving standout bartender Chris Brown a high five while he pours you a shot of whiskey, or pops open a can of PBR for you. Later that same night, you may find yourself seated next door at 5 ½ Bar listening attentively while mixologist Patrick Bolster offers you a lesson in liquor as he slices a fresh cucumber for your cocktail. While each locale carries a distinct appeal, together this two-in-one show-stopper offers the best of both worlds when it comes to entertainment, atmosphere and of course, drinks. “We are very happy and humbled to have the best patrons an establishment could ask for,” said Bolster. “We try hard to maintain a consistent, high quality product and customer service. Further, we always are striving for improvement, so we greatly appreciate our patrons for their input and loyalty.” While at 5 ½ you always know what’s being mixed in, Vinyl seeks to keep you guessing, inviting in everything from hypnotists to burlesque and even silent discos. “The music will always come first, but the market here has shown that they’re hungry for all types of entertainment,” said talent buyer, Chris Wilkes. “If the public wants it and we can make it work on our stage, you’re sure to see it sooner than later.” 5 E. Garden St., vinylmusichall.com

A Different World
“We treat every day like opening day,” said Scott Zepp, co-founder of World of Beer. “All we ever really try to do is focus on craft beer, live music, and good hospitality.” When it opened on Palafox Street in July 2012, WOB quickly drew crowds locally as the franchise has at locations throughout the country. The Pensacola location holds a special place in the hearts of Zepp and friend and business partner Matt LaFon, who grew up in the area and always had returning to Pensacola on their minds. “You could tell the city was shifting gears, starting to grow, and we were ready to get home,” Zepp said of their decision to open a Pensacola outlet. With dozens of beers on tap and even more bottled, WOB really is a beer lover’s dream come true.  “We make sure we understand our product,” said Zepp, as the beer itself as well as the staff’s brew knowledge are what they hope customers appreciate, which it appears they do. “The community has supported us and we couldn’t be happier,” said Zepp. 200 S. Palafox, wobusa.com/Locations/Palafox