The colorful lounge has a great view, a fancy cocktail menu and millennial-inspired pop art.
BY JUSTIN GRANT
f you’re looking for a semi swanky setting with some sort of outdoor component, quality cocktails and music to celebrate the start of a new year, look to the Aloft Downtown Tampa hotel. Oh, and there are bonus riverfront views.
The Aloft chain has done impressive work with its WXYZ – yes, there’s a space in there brand of lounges.
The design and scope of W XYZ makes it clear that they’re not designed solely as bars for hotel guests. These places aim to pull people in off the streets as well. Considering Aloft’s position in the heart of downtown Tampa, this is reasonable.
The bar area at WXYZ is pretty typical, with a cool, layered acrylic bartop dotted with canisters of fresh and pickled cocktail ingredients, a very respectable lineup of bottles stacked on high shelves and the chain’s signature neon logo hanging above.
The surrounding lounge is what really sets W XYZ apart. It’s not a dark, mysterious cocktail bar or neo-rustic hipster setup, either of which would be expected given W XYZ’s fancy cocktail-driven drink menu and emphasis on local craft beer (six taps, all Florida).
Instead, it’s a spacious, modern and almost aggressively colorful lounge, adorned with millennial-inspired pop art (yes, that’s a giant Justin Bieberportrait) and popping with high-contrast tones. Add some borderline retrofuturist furniture and a free-play pool table and you’ve got a lounge that wouldn’t look out of place in an Ikea showroom.
The lounge and bar are against a glass wall that overlooks the outdoor pool and fire pit area, which in turn overlooks the Hillsborough River and downtown Tampa. At night, the minarets of the University Tampa and lights along the water make for a wonderfully scenic view.
The beer selection is small and locally oriented, with rotating draft beers from breweries around the area and elsewhere in Florida, as well as a small bottle selection of the usual stuff and some additional craft options. Funky Buddha’s Sweet Potato Casserole seasonal was on closeout for $3 when I visited. I can’t guarantee it will still be around if you do, but that’s a bona fide bargain.
There are just more than a dozen wines, and, of course, a full selection of premium spirits. Don’t miss the 11 house cocktails, which feature a variety of seasonal ingredients and flavors.
The Tipsy Cinapple-pie mixes Ciroc Apple vodka with red and white cranberry juices, topping the whole thing off with cinnamon. The more substantial Royally Wicked uses Crown Royal Apple, combining it with Crown Royal Maple, lemonade and a cherry. Or the BuffaloSoldier: Bulleit bourbon, Grand Marnier, white cranberry, apple cider and cinnamon. As I said: seasonal.