I stopped by 1835 Porch Bar on a Thursday evening a few weeks ago, getting there early enough to catch the sunset and slip through the throng of waiting diners.
The bar takes its name from the year that Leonard, George and William Destin sailed from Connecticut in three ships. A hurricane near Cape Canaveral carried off two ships (as well as George and William), leaving Leonard to go on and found Destin. The bar is part of the popular Dewey Destin’s Harborside restaurant, and offers diners a comfortable, homelike place to sit and refresh themselves while waiting for a table. Or just sit and drink while not waiting for a table.
There were only a few customers when I arrived. Like the name says, the bar sits on a porch, overlooking a broad paved patio area, furnished with tables and chairs, some open-air, some shaded by umbrellas. The patio offers a view of the fishing docks. Live music and other events are also featured on select nights.
The liquid menu offers craft cocktails, wines, draft beers (didn’t see any bottles). There are also appetizers like steamed shrimp, tuna or cheese dip, gumbo, crab claws, and ceviche, plus burgers, grilled cheese, BLT and bratwurst. The night I came, they had just started serving a “limited” selection from the Dewey Destin restaurant main menu—fried platters, seafood entrees and sandwiches. This necessitated extra work for the servers, who moved among the now quickly filling tables to answer questions and take orders. Help came from the main restaurant as time went on, and everyone looked to be getting served on time.
As for the bar, I got to talk to head bartender Tarra Wixom, and associate bartender Samantha B (Sam). Looking over the stock on the shelves, I asked about rye whiskey. Tarra pointed out two bottles—Manifest (distilled in Jacksonville) and Wild Buck (from Weeki Wachee). She suggested the Manifest for an Old Fashioned, which is just what I hoped she’d say.
Sam made the drink while Tarra and I commiserated about the sin of muddling cherries and orange slices, and sloshing club soda into Old Fashioneds. Sam did it right—simple syrup, Angostura bitters, orange peel to muddle and remove, rye, stir, single large ice cube, another orange peel for the rim and garnish. The result was simplicity itself—the whiskey leads, the bitters lend spice, and there’s that lovely scent of orange oil.
Tarra appears to be a traditionalist about craft cocktails (“I find the oldest recipe and use that one,” she says). She chooses all the cocktails on the seasonal menu, which varies, and is also a bar consultant.
The bar menu listed a “Cocktail Du Jour” (Whiskey Sour), The Basic (strawberry-infused vodka and rhubarb bitters), Heat at the Beach (habanero-infused vodka, coconut-infused syrup), 3 Hour Tour (rum and citrus with orgeat), O’Keefe (tequila and prickly pear), 1835 Hurricane (rums and fruits), Hemingway Daiquiri (rum, maraschino liqueur and grapefruit), B Cubed (bourbon, basil and blueberries), Barking Dog (gin, citrus, black pepper syrup), Karma Khameleon (gin, citrus, ginger) and Watermelon Daisy (bourbon, mint, watermelon).
They also make a Manhattan—I know because I asked. I had to wait in line for my next round, but I noticed the crowd now included families with kids, who played cornhole toss and ran around. A guy at a neighborhood place was doing a pretty decent cover of “Son of a Sailor.”
Sam made the Manhattan. Tarra was out helping a couple navigate the cocktail menu, suggesting a substitute for a boat-drink they were wanting. The rye this time was Wild Buck, with Carpano Antica vermouth and stemmed Bada Bing cherry. The Wild Buck rye was a little drier, grainier, with a fresh-baked bread scent and biting taste that’s a good match for a soft and velvety vermouth like Carpano Antica.
I took my time with it, watching the beads on the glass and trying not to listen to the people at the table next to me. They were discussing flesh-eating bacteria, long past the point of educational interest. There’s one in every bar. They always sit near me. Even at Epcot—you can ask my wife.