What if your favorite bartender had free rein to create their perfect bar? The Blend, Beam Suntory’s bartender community engagement program, challenged PUNCH’s Bartender in Residence Class of 2021 to each bring their “fantasy bar” to life, considering every detail—from the vibe to the music to the most Instagrammable feature (and, of course, the drinks).
- Bar Name: The Sandbar
- Location: Coastal Florida
- Style: Dockside beach bar
- Signature Drink: Jalapeño-Agave Margarita on draft
- Dream Guest (Dead or Alive): Sylvia Earle
- Most Instagrammable Feature: Beach-to-water entrance of the bar
Having grown up in Florida, bartender Leanne Favre bears fond memories of “dockside days” at the local bait-and-tackle bars, where her family would pull up straight from a boat. Though her current home base is Brooklyn—she’s the head bartender at a critically acclaimed pan-Latin-inspired cocktail bar, known for her ability to weave unexpected savory elements like mushroom, sesame, garlic and onion into thoughtfully considered, flavorful cocktails—it’s those sun-drenched moments she escapes to when asked to dream up her perfect “fantasy bar.” The result is The Sandbar, a tropical outpost located on the water featuring an approachable, yet elevated, cocktail program focused on sustainably sourced ingredients. While this warm-weather reverie wouldn’t be out of place on the coast of Mexico or the shallow, emerald-green waters of Jamaica, in Favre’s vision, it can’t be anywhere else but her home state.
Let’s set sail to The Sandbar.
The adage “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” carries zero weight at The Sandbar, an isolated tropical bar that appears just around the curve of the shore, like an oasis driven by equal parts fantasy and nostalgia. To enter the pavilion-like hut, most guests will cross the slender dock extending into the shallow water; others will take the water approach and dock their boats directly to the bar. “I would want a bar that would be open for the locals and the regulars all the time, any day of the week,” says Favre. “If you’re out fishing, you can always stop by for a cold drink or a lunch bite.”
The playlist leans toward pan–Latin American vintage vinyl, with a few classic and yacht rock offerings in the mix. (Hall & Oates may be played in moderation, but there’s a firm “No Jimmy Buffett” rule.) And while it’s a bit of a cliché, The Sandbar’s bartenders strive to make you feel like a regular, even if it’s your first time. Don’t forget to grab a few of the custom postcards, emblazoned with colorful designs of local fauna (groupers, flamingos, alligators) to send to friends back home for the ultimate “Wish You Here” flex.
After crossing the walkway from beach to bar, the centerpiece of the circular, thatched-roof pavilion is an over-the-water horseshoe bar with 14 seats. Wicker-framed bar shelves are filled with bottles from around the world, and a neon sign reading “The Sandbar” features a cheeky pelican peeking out from behind the text. The floor is tiled with vibrant terrazzo. Hurricane-safe glass panels can be closed against the elements when needed, but on most days they’re open (“Cross-breeze is key,” says Favre); outside, a wraparound patio has tables overlooking the water. Lush hanging greenery, palm trees, colorful taxidermic sea creatures and a mismatched collection of vintage hanging lamps fill the space. The bathrooms have “strong sunset vibes,” done in Miami pink, orange and turquoise to contrast with the lighter woods and greens in the main area.
Those in the know make their way to a small hatch just off the dock, where cooks prepping for the grill throw fish scraps in the water. At first, “you don’t really know what it is or what’s going on,” says Favre. “But then you see people gathered around watching the stingrays swimming around.”
Drinks & Menu
Favre would offer around 10 original cocktails on The Sandbar’s menu, each one an ideal accompaniment to the oceanside setting. The Jalapeño-Agave Margarita on draft is the top seller, but regulars would riot if she took her mezcal mango cocktail off the menu. She likes to limit frozen drinks on a menu to just one, but it won’t be a Margarita or a Daiquiri. (“I don’t think they’re the best when frozen,” says Favre.) Instead, she’s partial to a Mudslide amped up with Scotch and sherry, which cut the sugar with a savory nuttiness.
Daiquiri-seekers will get one of Favre’s “Funky Rum” takes. “People are constantly going to ask for a Daiquiri at a beach bar,” says Favre, “so I like to spotlight how much the spirit itself influences the flavor by utilizing the different rums I have on hand.” Variations of classic cocktails are presented with an oceanside perspective: the Sandbar Martini uses oyster shell–infused gin for a spike of briny salinity, while the smoked Old-Fashioned receives its heady aroma from the charred wood used at the beachside firepit to grill the fish of the day.
Sustainable seafood is the focus on the food menu, with the live-fire grill right on the beach churning out skewers of local fish and blackened grouper sandwiches, served alongside ice-cold shellfish, stone crab and mussels.
In Favre’s vision, The Sandbar is deeply rooted in the environment it’s built on and the community it serves. Keeping up with sustainable fishing practices and working directly with local fishermen and produce purveyors would be a priority. Favre would strive to stay local for the bar’s other products and services, as well as work to reduce the use of any packaged single-use items (using, for example, CO2 tanks for carbonation rather than single-serve chargers). The bar team would organize and volunteer with regular beach cleanups. And she would host regular benefit pop-up events featuring bartenders from favorite venues around the country, which would drive awareness to charitable efforts. Ultimately, she hopes that The Sandbar’s staff and guests would be described as “people who want to go on an adventure and have a good time, but also care about what they are consuming.”