Florida Cane Brings Florida Flavor To All Drinks
In Ybor City, one can always find a sense of adventure. In fact, Ybor has always been one of the best locations for an authentic Tampa experience. From local bars to Cuban sandwiches and cigars, Ybor has it all. Which is why it isn’t surprising that I was able to find Pat O’Brien and Lee Nelson’s Florida Cane distillery. Florida Cane recently moved to Ybor and it fits in perfectly as its product brings its own local flair to taste.
What makes Florida Cane different is how they go about their process of making their liquor. O’brien didn’t mind sharing a bit of insight into this fascinating process.
“We use south Florida sugar cane as a base ingredient. Most vodka is made from grain, some are made from potatoes, corn or grapes. What you have to do is convert all of those grains and starches into sugar because you can’t have alcohol without sugar,” Obrien said. “Alcohol is created when yeast eats sugar so instead of starting from grain, we start with sugar to kind of give it a Florida taste.”
However, in order to understand how Florida Cane got to be and why it’s now becoming a staple in Ybor City, one has to go back a few years to when O’Brien and Nelson played hockey together.
“Well we decided to do distilling and this goes back to 2010, Lee had a home distill in his garage and he was making vodka and bringing it to our hockey games and it was the most God-awful stuff you ever tasted,” O’Brien joked. “Eventually, he started getting really good at it and my background is in sales and marketing. We saw what happened with the craft beer boom and we knew that craft distillery was way behind in the Southeast of the United States and in Florida there was nothing. So that gave us an idea of using Florida produce and we use all natural produce for our product. “
How the magic happens, or in this case how the vodka happens, is another unique twist on the Florida Cane product.
“Our filtration process is different because we use a slow drip process, where we use a drip process through charred up coconut husks, most vodkas filter through stone carbon,” O’Brien explained. “Filtering it through coconut husks removes a lot of the impurities with vodka such as the bad taste and the bad smell and kind of give people a hangover.”
O’Brien also said that the distillery recently released a new line of bottles with custom made “Florida stamps.” The labels help feature different parts of Florida and their look matches with the great taste that Florida Cane has. Speaking of the great taste, I got to try the Florida Orlando Orange and also the Tamiami Gin. Both were exceptional and would go well as a part of any cocktail. The distillery isn’t like a Cigar City Brewery as it can’t legally sell drinks. But they offer a lot for those who are interested in what a distillery does.
“Right now, [due to the current laws] all we are allowed to do is give away free samples and sell bottles,” O’Brien said. “But we do some tours and next month we are going to offer courses on distilling. But eventually we would love to be able to open as a bar using our product to make signature drinks.”
One of the things I got to chat with O’Brien about is how important it is to support local craft drinking. Craft beers and craft liquor open up a whole new horizon for drinks and it can showcase local flavor.
“It’s expanding on what we drink. Every bar you go to, you can try something you’ve never had before,” O’Brien said. “The more distilleries that open, the more options you have and the more that can be done. Craft brewing boom has brought up a whole different types of beers and craft distilling is starting to do the same thing.