Gene Zimmerman at The Courtesy in Orlando, Fla. [Photo: Michael Lathrop,]

At the Courtesy Bar, music is low and conversation is encouraged. This is an adult bar—Prohibition-themed before Prohibition was cool—under the tutelage of wine rep and musician Gene Zimmerman, who revived the speakeasy model without that pesky password business. Credited as being the groundbreaker of craft cocktails in Orlando back in 2012, the space was carved into a tiny sliver of downtown’s 1925-built Autrey Arcade. Hanging by the door, a painting of an Albrecht Durer-esque pale rabbit on a deeply dark background by local artist Drew White sets the tone: well-worn steampunk fittings, rescued wood panels, a looming custom barback, and Edison lights all around. Jay Gatsby on holiday would feel at home.

Zimmerman travels the country promoting, and seeking out, great drinks. “In my travels as a ‘wine guy,’” he says, “I started seeing big and small markets around the country with a cocktail scene, and we were still behind. Our goal was to bring a dedicated cocktail bar to Orlando.”

His vision swiftly spread to area stand-alone bars (“I call it a bar, whatever that means”) and an ever-growing cadre of restaurants with craft programs. All hands at Courtesy muddle, mix, and infuse local ingredients with spirits both popular and obscure. “We started with a menu of the classics; now, we haven’t done a classic, in print, in I can’t remember how long.” The menu flips four times a year, and there are twice-monthly cocktail classes.

Zimmerman’s view of the horizon anticipates excitement about raicilla, the unsteamed tequila cousin with an umami aroma and unexpected overripe lemon brightness; and low ABV offerings built around madeira, vermouth, and wine-based cocktails.

“Our tagline,” Zimmerman says, “is ‘The pleasure is ours. The Courtesy is yours.’”


Breath of the Wild cocktail at The Courtesy in Orlando, Fla. [Photo: Michael Lathrop,]

Breath of the Wild

1.5 oz. St George Terroir Gin

.5 oz. Montenegro

.75 oz. Sunflower Orgeat

.5 oz. lemon

2 dash Mace tincture

Bar spoon Smiling Goat Fig-Cardamom jam



Garnish: lemon peel and clipped mint