Head south from Destin-Fort Walton Airport towards the gulf this holiday season, and the beach views will call your name. Choose to slow down and enjoy two-lane East County Highway 30A.
Local residents call this beloved stretch on Florida’s Panhandle, 30A. It’s understood that 30A runs roughly from the old town of Grayton Beach (est. 1890), through Seaside, Alys Beach and Rosemary Beach, ending at Inlet Beach. Along the way, 30A offers restful periodic glimpses of the ocean, dozens of luxury resorts, beachfront condominiums, gated communities, clusters of inviting retail and restaurants and many magical towns.
Although holiday lights are festively twinkling about town, the ocean breeze has turned brisk, and the days are shorter than you’d like, you’ll find plentiful Christmas cheer as you mosey along Florida’s 30A.
The charming town centers and tree-lined streets provide a generous start, but maybe you need more —way more— to unlock your Christmas spirit.
Luckily, 30A has a gift with your name on it: Holiday cocktails to help release all things merry.
Tasting these six seasonal, holiday cocktails will unwrap the area in a new way:
Six great stops for holiday cocktails
Great Southern Café excels at anchoring Seaside’s town center. Drop in on Kristina Peele, its longest-serving bartender for a fun, personal conversation about the area and her Christmas creation, Jack Frost. Made with vodka, Champagne, Blue Curaçao, and lemonade, it’s served in a sugar-dipped glass and garnished with raspberries. “This drink screams happy holidays,” Peele says, adding that it’s not crazy strong but strong enough to help wash down holiday food. If you’re looking for some seasonal spirit, Peele says this is sure to help.
Paradis offers an equally wonderful but wildly different atmosphere. Slip inside off the main square of Rosemary Beach, and you’ll find yourself in a cozy, dimly lit bar, a welcome respite from the elements.
Mixologist Jeff Troy suggests the Vintage Old Fashioned to toast the holidays, a signature cocktail created at Paradis. “It’s made with 2 oz Sagamore Rye, 1/2 oz simple syrup and 4-5 good dashes of Fee Brothers chocolate bitters. The spicy flavors of the bitters mixed with the warmth of the rye with just a hint of sweet makes this drink one to wrap your head around on a cool crisp winter day,” he says.
Shades Bar & Grill at Inlet Beach is a laid-back, local favorite sports bar, overflowing with cool vibe. Gillian Hallemeyer will set you up with her Shades’ Snowdaze cocktail. Served in a martini glass, this drink goes down easy. Her goal is to have you feel transported to Christmas morning by the cocktail’s warm cinnamon and cocoa flavors. “[It] represents the balance of spice and sweetness associated with Christmas mornings. I combine the nutty Disaronno with the spice of cinnamon to warm the flavors of vanilla vodka. Then I add Bailey’s to create depth with its cocoa and Irish cream consistency,” Hallemeyer says.
Bud & Alley’s Rooftop Bar is where you’ll want to stop in after some beach time. A popular hangout in Seaside, this beach-facing rooftop bar will take you in your swimwear and flip flops, even if your hair is wet and you’re coated with sand. There’s so much to love about this bar, and you’ll want to seize the day and drop by more than once. After all, there was a time not long ago when teens were in tow, making it more difficult to spontaneously stop at a bar. Ask Emrah Temelli for his Bud + Alley’s GRINCH, a Bacardi Key Lime Rum based drink with peach schnapps, Blue Curacao, sprite and OJ.
NEAT Tasting Room & Bottle Shop at Alys Beach is a must. Palm trees line the portion of 30A along Alys Beach, and you’ll want to pause and experience this special place. Mixologist Hunter Church won’t disappoint you. What’s waiting is a Christmas cocktail he calls Christmas in July. Pimms #1, Camus Cognac, lemon juice, Giffard Orgeat syrup, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters with cherries are combined and shaken.
Church says, “Its mulled spiced flavor is from the Pimm’s no. 1, cognac, and Angostura, bringing to mind the baking spices and smells that fill the air in the holiday season, with the Orgeat and Turbinado simple giving it the right texture—almost reminiscent of a light nog, while the fresh lemon adds the pop of acidity that it needs to stay refreshing even in the warmer months.” Church will give you a tour of the bottle shop afterward to share the history and offerings of this popular place.
Pescado, an 18+ rooftop establishment in Rosemary Beach, will more than satisfy. While it’s great to hang out in places where grandkids are welcome, if yours aren’t along, it’s never bad to quietly sit and sip while watching the sun dip below the horizon without any drama or commotion. Ask Slayde Martin what he’d recommend for a holiday drink and he’ll make you Christmas Bell. His secret? Combine Rittenhouse rye whiskey, Amaro Averna, applejack brandy, lemon juice, vanilla cinnamon, egg white and Angostura bitters. Spritz glass with allspice dram, then spritz cocktail after making it and finally, dust it with nutmeg and bitters. Linger over your cocktail, because there’s no better place to enjoy the sunset. The view is great and armed with a smooth holiday cocktail, it’ll be fantastic.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- These eating/drinking establishments vary in style, ranging from a sports bar, to casual beachside spot, to upscale, 18+ rooftop restaurant.
- Sampling holiday cocktails along 30A offers a unique approach to feeling the vibe of new towns and meeting locals, including creative mixologists.
- With no kids or grandkids in tow, you’ll enjoy a taste of freedom along 30A as you explore these cool bars and sip their bespoke holiday concoctions.
Because drinking and driving don’t mix, be careful not to overdo the holiday cocktails or be sure to appoint a non-drinker as your designated driver.
IF YOU GO
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