Riberia Street is dark and quiet on this chilly January evening. The building, born in the 1900’s, is dimly lit. It doesn’t need to be bright or garish; it is the moon and we are drawn in. Crossing the threshold of The Ice Plant in St. Augustine, FL takes you to another time when quality was quiet and elegant, and where the experience of it all was tempting yet satisfying. The Ice Plant plays the perfect host.
The latest trend in bars and restaurants beckons to the days of Prohibition, which ironically was not the golden age for cocktails. This concept can be fun, like PDT’s (Manhattan) secret phone booth entrance. But, anytime you have a “theme” you’ve got to tread lightly. There is a thin line in creativity between “trying too hard” and comfortable confidence. It doesn’t need a theme, it doesn’t need to hide behind a curtain in an alluring attempt to make you feel the rebel. The Ice Plant simply is… and it’s great.
The Ice Plant plays host to the era before Prohibition when the first cocktail manuals were appearing and these new mixed drinks were called “potions.” Aptly so, there is something magical about this place. It was recently named one of the ten “Best New Bars” by Garden & Gun magazine and was featured in Southern Living magazine.
All of the cocktails they serve are “grain to glass” and their food “from farm to table.” But, what makes the experience are the hands that handle the grains and food in between. These hands aren’t hurried, but measured and careful. They are making and serving something special each time, and its just for you.
The only cocktail I tried was “Newton’s Law:” once I tasted it, I couldn’t bear to order something different. Apple butter, Applejacks Brandy, a hint of sweet from Grand Marnier, mixed with freshly squeezed lemon juice and two dashes of bitters combine to create a drink that is without a doubt, the best cocktail I’ve ever tasted. It represents its crafters well, ‘for The Ice Plant’s ingredients mix in perfect measure, making a memorable experience for all who walk up her wooden stairway.
Take a night off from assaults of modernity and be served from the wells of the past. Slow down and enjoy being born again to a new age. Slide into a wooden booth and relax, the Ice Plant is a most gracious host.