A few weekends ago, Marti and I visited St. Augustine, Florida. It was part of a Christmas present to me: a 2-night getaway from the kids with just Marti in tow. We had a great time exploring the city, but the best part without a doubt was when we visited the St. Augustine Distillery.
The Ice Plant’s history
The St. Augustine Distillery opened just a couple of years ago (March 2014) after successfully securing ownership of the former “Ice Plant” on Riberia St. This Ice Plant opened up as a power plant around 1907 and they started producing ice soon thereafter as the city began to boom in order to support tourism and commerce (such as providing fishermen with a way to keep their fish fresher for longer).
The plant closed down in the 60s and lay dormant for many years before real estate developers who wanted to tear it down to make room for new condos snapped it up in the early 21st century and subsequently lost it in the downturn. The community bandied together with a common goal to save this historic building and the St. Augustine Distillery was born.
St. Augustine Distillery groups together a whole lot of ideals that resonate with me, like shopping locally, hipster culture, producing locally, sustainability and producing a delicious drink.
Every single person that works at the distillery does so because they love it which is very apparent both from their attitude and from the fruits of their labour.
In order to get on the (free) tour we had to come back a second time (they were all booked up the first day) which we were only too happy to do. The tour was a lot of fun and incredibly informative. The half an hour I spent waiting for my tour to start was not wasted as I perused the exhibits in the museum about the history of the building and its role in the community.
Then we went on to learn about the distillery, how it came to be, how they make their products, the farmers that they work with and the craftsmanship that goes into making each spirit. They were even kind enough to rustle up a couple of drinks for us to taste and there’s a lot to be said for the skill that goes into making a good drink.
Taking the distillery home
We ended up in the gift shop where they have a lot of cool gifts and of course their own spirits for sale. We grabbed what we needed to make some of the delicious drinks we had tried as well as a couple of t-shirts but not before getting some more free samples of their products. Try everything, even if you’re not “in to” spirits – the Florida Mule and the New World G&T are winners.
Ice Plant Bar
Attached to the distillery is – naturally – a bar, aptly called the Ice Plant Bar. It’s housed in one of the huge halls where they used to produce ice, complete with the bridge crane that used to haul the ice out of the buckets ready for the customer.
When we arrived, it was stormy outside making it very moody inside. It goes along well with the industrial setting and the throwback to the days of old with the wooden furniture and bare metal fixtures.
The Ice Plant Bar is establishing itself as a master of drinkmaking. They’ve got a comprehensive drinks menu with a good mixture of old and new drinks, strong and sweet, to suit all palates. Listening to the wait staff talk about what they recommend for you and why is a joy and opens up your eyes to some of your own preferences that you may not have even known you had.
We tried a variety of drinks that we’ve never had before as a result and we were able to really enjoy the nuances in each one. Marti fell in love with a negroni and it is now her mixed drink of choice.
A great day (or two) out
Without a doubt, the St. Augustine Distillery was our favourite place to visit in St Augustine. Their food was excellent and between the distillery and the bar, there was plenty to see and appreciate, lots to learn and myriad new things to try. Highly recommended if you’re ever in northeast Florida.