ice entrance

There’s a new hot spot in Saint Augustine called The Ice Plant Bar and Bottle Shop.  Located on Riberia Street, not far from the San Sebastian Winery and the Lincolnville District, this craft distillery was inspired by a historic period in the early 20th century.  The building housed an actual ice plant in the 1920’s, and it has been painstakingly restored through the efforts of local entrepreneur Philip McDaniel and Mike Diaz.  The Ice Plant was recently cited by Southern Living Magazine as evidence in an up-swing of coolness in Saint Augustine.

Craft cocktails are the focus here, with 19 different selections, each created with precision using exceptional local ingredients.  Appropriately, ice is a key component in these cocktails: they believe good ice is a key component of a well-made drink, a detail that is often overlooked.  To prevent such oversight, they practice “ice harvesting,” freezing purified water in large blocks, and carving it daily into appropriate proportions.  This means bartenders can make drinks colder without over-dilution.

ice block

The many choices of craft cocktails available at The Ice Plant include the “Flagler Billionaire,” made with Balcones blue corn whiskey, lemon, sugar, Grenadine and Pernod; the “Lowcountry,” made with Ransom Old Tom Gin, Fernet Branca, lime, cucumber, sage peppercorn syrup, ginger syrup and Free Brother bitters; and the “Amelia,” with Aylesbury Duck Vodka, blackberry puree, elderflower liqueur, mint and lemon.

These top-rail concoctions all run in the range of ten dollars.  You can also order one of their punches for fifty bucks, with eight servings each.  These include the “Fish Camp” made with Smith & Cross Jamaican rum, Muekow cognac, house made peach brandy, Demerera, lemon and nutmeg, or the “Lust for Life” with Aquavit, grapefruit-infused Punt e Mes, Prosecco, pineapple, lemon, soda, Demerera and orange.

The Ice Plant cocktails

The Ice Plant also serves bar snacks, small plates and entrees.  Try the “Devils on Horseback” (bacon wrapped dates with blue cheese puree) or the local datil shrimp served with avocado-corn mousse and cilantro oil.  The Ice Plant burger comes topped with bacon-chive aioli and the bourbon barbecue pulled pork sports a jalapeno-lime slaw topper.

Craft distillery is a rising trend.  The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that the Ice Plant distillery is one of 15 distilleries in the Florida Craft Distillers Guild.  Changes in laws have created opportunities for micro distillers.

In 2003, there were only around 70 craft distillers counted by the American Distilling Institute; by 2013, that number has risen to almost 450.  Now the First Coast has joined the party.