"Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine." That is one of many classic lines from the iconic film Casablanca. Much of it takes place at Rick's Café Americain. Humphrey Bogart, the actor who played Rick, would have felt at home at CW's Gin Joint in Tampa, Florida. Earlier this year Ms. Cocktail Den and I were in Tampa. Our friends Kirk and David, who we knew online through the cocktail community but never had met in person, invited us to join them at CW's. We all had a wonderful time.
The motto of CW's (CW is Carolyn Wilson, the owner) is "Where style and grace have an attitude." The motto hits the mark. Glancing at the stunningly designed interior, you might think the bar is one of those annoyingly expensive and pretentious establishments. It's not. While you can go to CW's impeccably dressed (like Kirk and David, who would've looked perfectly normal on the set of Casablanca), the people there will treat you just as well if you're wearing an aloha shirt (like me). We didn't meet Carolyn, but we did have the pleasure of meeting Daniel Bareswilt. He's a true professional.
You will be shocked, just shocked to learn CW's has a serious focus on gin (if you don't get the joke, please watch the movie). If, like me, you're not a gin connoisseur, CW's gin matrix can be helpful. When I say matrix, I don't mean the Keanu Reeves/red pill/blue pill sort of matrix. If you want to learn about gin, this is the place. If gin isn't your thing, CW's has plenty of other spirits and cocktails. I particularly enjoyed the Gateway, sort of a cross between a Martinez and a Hanky Panky. In the unlikely event nothing on the menu tickles your liver, I'm confident the bartenders can make you something Rick's patrons drank, e.g. the Champagne Cocktail resistance leader Victor Laszlo orders as he figures out how to evade the Nazis.
In many ways CW's resembles the fictitious bar in the movie. Great drinks? Check. Classy atmosphere? Check. Great bartenders? Check. International intrigue? Not that I saw or heard. Unless you count sharing stories about international travel adventures.
If you're in Tampa and want somewhere to have a drink as time goes by (again, if you don't get it, watch the movie), go to CW's Gin Joint. It will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.