Spirits: Going tropical

3.1 min read| Published On: May 31st, 2021|

By Theresa Campbell

Spirits: Going tropical

3.1 min read| Published On: May 31st, 2021|

Kalua Beach Bar provides ideal setting to chill and savor a Rum Runner, Tropical Tease, Blue Lagoon, and other drinks. 

Photos: Nicole Hamel

Kalua Beach Bar’s cool lakeside vibe offers the idyllic, picture-perfect ambiance to enjoy a cocktail or fruity tropical-theme drink on a beautiful, sunny day or evening on Lake Dora’s waterfront in Tavares, America’s Seaplane City, where the view is a favorite with regulars and vacationers, and the setting makes savoring a tropical drink even more delicious. 

Admit it. There’s something visually appealing about being served a drink garnished with a skewer of fresh orange slices, maraschino cherries, or a pineapple wedge.

Margaritas, Rum Runner, Tropical Tease, Blue Lagoon, and the Malibu are among the drinks Jolene Depeal whips up at Kalua. 

“Anything mixed with juices or a sweet-flavored rum or vodka is popular,” says Jolene, one of several bartenders and servers at Kalua. She has been at the beach bar for a little over three years. “We do a lot of specialty fruity drinks. Our Margaritas are really good, and our Long Island Iced Tea is very refreshing and very light.” 

As Jolene mixes up a few colorful drinks, she reveals their liqueurs. “The Rum Runner has a light rum, a dark rum, banana liqueur and a blackberry liqueur, grenadine, and pineapple and orange juice. It is one of our top drinks.”  

Her personal favorite varies, ranging from “a good traditional Margarita, a Tropical Tease, and I love the Malibu, which is made with coconut rum, and it reminds me of the smell of sunscreen,” she says of the drink that also has pineapple, orange juice, grenadine, and cherries. 

Style photographer Nicole Hamel and I found the drinks Jolene prepared to be delicious. The Blue Lagoon offered a nice citrus flavor along with blue curaçao for its captivating color, and the tasty Tropical Tease was delightful, made with two rums, grenadine, pineapple, and orange juice.

Jolene often hears compliments about Kalua’s atmosphere. She feels the same way. 

“I love the atmosphere, the customers, the water, the scenery. I just love it,” she says. “We have the snowbirds, the people who own retirement homes or timeshares at Tiki West; there is a wide variety people who come here. And any time there are events Tavares is having, Kalua is a hot spot, especially all of the events around the water with all the boat access, all the seaplanes. This is just a really nice spot.” 

The beach bar, owned by Randy Connor, also offers live entertainment. Sundays are among the most popular, featuring reggae music.

“Reggae Sunday is insanely busy and draws hundreds,” Jolene says of the 2 to 6 p.m. entertainment. “It’s very upbeat, very exciting. Sanky and his crew definitely brings in huge crowds, and so do the other bands that play; they all bring in a good crowd.” 

“I love everything about Reggae Sunday,” says Tavares snowbird Amy Cuddahee. “To me it’s just a great day to forget about your worries and enjoy the music, sunshine and cocktails. The view is pretty amazing, too.”

“The thing I enjoy about Reggae Sunday is when Sanky and his crew are performing,” adds Cathy Hunter of Leesburg. “He has been here such a long time, and it’s like we’ve turned into a big family. Sanky always brings out the crowd and people just love him and his band.” 

Amy and Cathy are among many who enjoy listening and dancing to the music while savoring their favorite drinks and foods at the beach bar.  

“Their queso and chips and Buffalo chicken wing dip is off the charts delicious,” says Amy. 

In addition to a variety of appetizers, Jolene adds that the beach bar’s burgers are among the most popular. “Our burgers are amazing, so are the blackened fish tacos, nachos, the chicken Caesar wrap.”  

“All of their food is good,” adds Cathy, who relishes enjoying Kalua’s appetizers and entrées with the beach bar’s tropical drinks made with coconut rum, fruits and grenadine. 

The Malibu, Blue Lagoon and Tropical Tease are among her go-to drinks on Reggae Sunday afternoons. 

Kalua Beach Bar

181 S. Joanna Ave. Tavares, FL

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 

Call 352.609.5910 or visit kaluabeachbar.com 

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About the Author: Theresa Campbell

Originally from Anderson, Ind., Theresa worked for The Herald-Bulletin for many years. After experiencing a winter with 53 inches of snow, her late husband asked her to get a job in Florida, and they headed south. Well known in the area, Theresa worked with The Daily Sun and The Daily Commercial prior to joining Akers.

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