Saturday, November 18, 2017
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Intermezzo Coffee and Cocktails in the Edge District of St. Pete

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Good Ideas 101: You're onto something if you can describe your entire business in a single sentence and it sounds both appealing and unique in an area with no shortage of worthy competitors.

It's a pitch that St. Petersburg's Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails concisely delivers on its website: "A specialty coffee shop and cocktail bar in the celebrated Edge District of St. Petersburg."

The promise of quality coffee and cocktails in the same place is enough to get me in the door, but Intermezzo nails the concept, making it a must-visit for coffee connoisseurs and cocktail enthusiasts — just not necessarily at the same time.

It's a clever name, given the setup. While there's no true intermission, per se, there is a daily changing of the guard at 5 p.m., when the daytime coffee crew punches out and hands the bar over to the night-shift cocktail slingers. One space, two identities.

The interior of Intermezzo follows the straightforward promise of its overall concept, populating a sparse, white-painted warehouse-like setting with pastel metal chairs, small cafe tables, vintage furniture, potted palms and fresh flowers on the tables.

The minimalist vibe is retro in a fresh way — it's not the addition of a bunch of vintage decor that gives it a classic feel; it's the stripped-down and unforced clean look that does.

In the daytime, Intermezzo offers all of the typical coffee selections, as well as a few cool items, like a slow-drip cold brew that starts at night and is finished by the morning. The low-acidity brew is refreshing and forms the base of some non-alcoholic coffee cocktails, like the 'spro julep (cold brew on crushed ice with infused mint syrup and club soda) and a cold-brew lemonade. Not in the mood for coffee? Try a matcha lemonade, which mixes powdered Japanese green tea with lemonade. Cocktails are evenings only during the week, but Intermezzo recently started offering cocktails at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

At night, coffee selections are limited to a few basic items — don't try ordering a fancy latte — and the focus switches to cocktails. Really good cocktails. Currently, there are a dozen classics and nine house creations, the latter making good use of Intermezzo's thorough selection of Italian amaros — bitter, herbal liqueurs that are traditionally consumed after a big meal but also happen to be outstanding players in complex, exotic cocktails.

For a crash course in amaro-supported cocktails, try the Bodini No. 1, which comes from the all-booze school of cocktail creation: rye whiskey, Ramazotti and Fernet Menta amaros and Punt e Mes Italian vermouth. The rich earthiness of the Ramazotti is balanced nicely by the minty Fernet, thoroughly transforming what would otherwise be an Italian-inspired Manhattan into something very fresh, intriguing and downright excellent.

Alternatively, you could try one of the milder house creations, like the Don Johnson, which drinks a bit like a pleasantly alcoholic tom kha gai, featuring cilantro-infused rum, coconut water, lime and black pepper. Or how about an Aperol-tinged paloma, served on tap?

I visited Intermezzo twice in order to get a feel for both sides of the business. As a daytime specialty coffee shop, it's fantastic. As a chill cocktail spot in the evening, it can hang with the best in town. Great coffee in the day and great cocktails at night — it's so simple, there's not much else to say about it. And that's precisely why it works so well.

Contact Justin Grant at jg@saintbeat.com; follow @WordsWithJG.

     
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