A new urban core cocktail lounge is taking “Downtown is on Fire” literally, serving up flaming cocktails and other specialities in a swanky hideaway on Adams Street.
This new hotspot, The Volstead, is a bourbon and whiskey lounge that gets its name from The Volstead Act, which enacted prohibition in the United States in late 1919. The act was later repealed in 1933, but the era would forever leave its mark on history and now on Downtown Jacksonville.
The Volstead is reintroducing this time of elegance and intimacy as well as bringing back the art of classic cocktails with a killer drink menu.
The first thing that caught my eye when I first walked in was the design and coziness of the space. The lounge itself is not very large, but the oversized couches, dim mood lighting and modern interior décor set a very comfortable tone. On the wall, a projector screen showcases black-and-white silent films. The employees had help from Content Design Group, but many of the final touches were crafty projects the Volstead team took it on themselves with limited materials and an even more limited budget.
I sat down with Alexa DiMaio, the bar manager, and she gave me the scoop on this already popular Downtown hotspot. Alexa explained that three men in their early 20s from different towns and different walks of life met in the kitchen of Burrito Gallery and formed a brotherhood based on a love of food, drink and heavy metal.
With their passion, creativity, and determination to bring class, style and premium drinks to the rebirth of Jacksonville’s Downtown, the Volstead was born.
Alexa said they chose Downtown because of the historic buildings and untapped potential. “It’s not every day that a group of young entrepreneurs can influence and be a part of the revival of one of America’s largest cities,” she said.
Their drink menu consists of many older versions of classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned and the Sidecar. They also add their twist by incorporating their own counterparts to the classic recipes.
“We call it the farm-to-bar movement,” Alexa said. “It gets us up at the crack of dawn visiting local farmers markets for fresh and local fruit and herbs, so we can chuck the chemical flavored booze off our shelves.”
They concocted a drink for me called the Baked Apple Sazarac, which is their version of the original Adams Street Sazarac. This absinthe and rye whiskey cocktail gets lit on fire right before your eyes and is garnished with cinnamon and an apple slice. Absolutely delicious.
Their biggest challenge so far has been renovating the historic ground-floor space of the W.A. Knight building and getting people to “shed their preconceived notions of Downtown.” The sooner people realize parking is ample and Downtown is one of the safest neighborhoods, they’ll clearly see the charm of Downtown they’ve been missing out on.
The Volstead is open seven days a week from 4 p.m. – 2 a.m. Each Monday night, the bar features a film starting at 7 p.m. I’ll see you at the next happy hour – cheers!