Close your eyes and imagine: A craft cocktail in your hand, an ocean breeze in your hair and no worries other than whether to order the blistered shishito peppers or the chili lime fries. Vacation heaven, right?
Or just another Tuesday afternoon at Tropics Cocktail Bar in Cocoa Beach.
The bar and restaurant opened last month at 1 S. Atlantic Ave., just 80 steps from the beach, and it lives up to its name with carefully crafted tropical drinks and tropical food inspired by exotic places.
The atmosphere is as relaxed as a day in the sun, with tables set up on the sidewalk, and garage doors that open the whole place up when the weather is nice.
Greg Schutt, a partner in the business, has a knack for creating high-end cocktails, such as the 1944 Mai Tai ($12), with Rhum JM VO, Plantation Xamayca, lime, almond orgeat, orange curacao and cocoa bitters; and Albert’s Last Breakfast ($15), with Cornflake-infused bourbon, oatmilk, banana, peanut butter and allspice.
But, he said, those who prefer something simpler shouldn’t feel ill at ease. He wants Tropics to be a place people can stop by after work in business attire or in a wet bathing suit straight from the beach.
“If you want a Bud Light, we’ve got that too,” he said.
There’s also a selection of frozen cocktails, including a Pina Colada ($10), with a blend of rums, coconut, lime and pineapple; and the Orange Blossom Special ($10), vodka, orange juice, oatmilk and local orange blossom honey.
Scott Wyman, a co-owner of Tropics, has owned Jazzy’s Mainely Lobster & Seafood a couple of blocks north on Atlantic Avenue since 2010 and was looking for a new project.
“This place came available,” he said of the former Thirsty Oyster, “and Greg came available.”
He and Schutt developed the concept together.
“It’s nice to have someone with blood in the game,” Wyman said.
Schutt has a degree in education, but his love for the hospitality industry superseded his love for teaching.
“I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 14,” he said. “I lied about my age so I could get a job at Wendy’s in Indialantic.”
He’s worked in kitchens in Central Florida and the Los Angeles area, and learned about craft beer with brewmaster Ron Raike of Titusville’s Playalinda Brewing Company.
“I have 15 years in really good kitchens,” he said.
Somewhere along the way, he discovered craft cocktails.
Schutt talks about drinks the way a chef talks about a signature dish. Fresh ingredients, infusions of herbs and spices and a lot of creativity go into his concoctions.
Unlike in a restaurant kitchen, “I realized I could talk to people as I was making their cocktail,” he said. “It’s more satisfying to make sure people like it.”
Like the cocktails, the menu at Tropics was carefully curated, with dishes both familiar and surprising.
“My whole mantra is, ‘If it’s new, make it familiar, if it’s familiar, make it new’,” Schutt said.
He describes Musubi ($6) as Hawaiian sushi: two pieces of griddled SPAM wrapped in sushi rice and nori. The Chile Lime Fries ($5) are drizzled with cotija cheese and cilantro-lime crema.
Like Schutt, Wyman is hands-on, taking over the kitchen when the regular chef is off.
Tropics is at the corner where Minutemen Causeway meets the ocean, and Schutt said they plan to capitalize on beach foot traffic with a to-go window and beach picnic packs that include food and cocktails.
Once pandemic restrictions are lifted and it’s safe to host large gatherings, Schutt said he would like to host street parties and other events along the corridor on the north side of the business.
“This location is probably going to be successful no matter what, so we might as well shoot for the moon,” Schutt said.
Tropics Cocktail Bar is at 1 S. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach. Call 321-536-5363 or visit tropicscocktailbar.com. Hours are 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday-Sunday.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Tropics Cocktail Bar in Cocoa Beach serves drinks and food inspired by exotic places