Distilleries Worth the Drive: Southwest Florida

Travel by tipple through the Sunshine State’s burgeoning craft spirits scene, starting with distilleries in our own backyard

Photo courtesy of Wicked Dolphin
Photo courtesy of Wicked Dolphin

Wicked Dolphin

Cape Coral’s Wicked Dolphin crafts an award-winning rum made from local sugarcane, handcrafted in small batches and distilled in Florida’s largest copper pot. Then it’s aged—for 3 to 14 years—in American white oak bourbon barrels. If you’re a fan of flavored rum, this is the place to try—from key lime to mango to cold brew coffee. Visitors can tour Wicked Dolphin to see their production process and taste current spirits (and even concoctions still under development). 

JoAnn Elardo, Co-Founder of Wicked Dolphin
JoAnn Elardo, Co-Founder of Wicked Dolphin

Meet the Maker: JoAnn Elardo, Co-Founder of Wicked Dolphin

For JoAnn Elardo, the inspiration to start a distillery began with a cocktail. “I had some interests in the sugar industry,” she recalls. “While having a cocktail that tasted like suntan lotion, I looked at the bottle and saw it was being made in Canada. I thought, ‘We are growing most of the sugarcane in the U.S. right here in Florida. Why are we not making rum here?’ It was the start of Wicked Dolphin distillery.” It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that Elardo’s favorite spirit these days is Wicked Dolphin’s Barrel Aged Rum. “Or, if I’m at the beach,” she adds, “it’s our Wicked Dolphin Coconut Rum.” Next up in the distillery’s pipeline are explorations of cane juice distilling and incorporating innovative fruit combinations. “[Florida’s] local produce and fruit inspire so many ideas,” Elardo says. “We love bringing that energy back into our products.”

Photo courtesy of List Distillery.jpg
Photo courtesy of List Distillery

List Distillery

Founded by Thomas and Renate List (the latter boasting family ties to Jägermeister), Fort Myers’ List Distillery is home to Mr. Tom’s Spirits, a product line using only locally sourced, natural ingredients. The small batch distillery turns out a host of spirit types including vodka, gin, rum, bourbon, whiskey, and even cream liqueurs. A standout includes the United States’ first certified 100 percent sugar- and gluten-free vodka, as well as the world’s only certified 100 percent sugar- and gluten-free gin. Contact List Distillery ahead of time to set up a tour and tasting. Make your visit memorable by selecting a spirit to buy and having the bottle custom-engraved as a keepsake. 

Everglades Distillers

Located in Immokalee, Everglades Distillers is Collier County’s first and only distillery. This veteran- and family-owned distillery specializes in whiskeys, rums, and flavored vodkas (think: Watermelon-Pineapple, Orange-Passionfruit, Cucumber-Lemon, and Jalapeño) made from Florida sugar. Try their Honey Whiskey, made with a blend of three types of local honey. 

Sunshine State Old-Fashioned. Photo by Gyory Papp
Sunshine State Old-Fashioned. Photo by Gyory Papp

Sunshine State Old-Fashioned


  • 2 oz. 25/80 Everglades Honey Whiskey from Everglades Distillers
  • 1 tsp. orange blossom honey
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • 1/2 slice of Florida orange
  • Pinch of cinnamon sugar (1/2 cinnamon, 1/2 cane sugar)
  • Culinary torch

Add whiskey, honey, and bitters to an empty cocktail glass and stir.

Place large ice cube into an old-fashioned glass. Add the cocktail.

Place the orange slice on top of the ice cube and add a pinch of cinnamon sugar to the slice of orange. Use the torch to caramelize and brûlée the sugar.

Photo courtesy of Drum Circle Distilling
Photo courtesy of Drum Circle Distilling

Drum Circle Distilling

Drum Circle Distilling is a family-owned rum distillery located in Sarasota. Known for its line of small-batch Siesta Key rums (including varieties infused with toasted coconut and coffee), their flagship product, Siesta Key Gold Rum, is pot-distilled from Florida molasses and aged in used bourbon barrels. Distillery tours here run seven days a week, but note that it’s best to make reservations ahead of time to ensure availability. Stop by their Infinity Room bar post-tour for spirit pours, cocktails, and mixed drinks.

Alligator Bay Distillers

Run by brothers Alex and Ben Voss, Alligator Bay Distillers produces award-winning rums and whiskeys. Their 3,000-square-foot facility in Bonita Springs houses old-fashioned copper pot stills. Of note: the distillery’s Alligator Bay White Rum—double-distilled from Floridian blackstrap molasses sourced in Clewiston—earned a silver medal in the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits competition. 

Loaded Cannon Distillery

Named among USA Today’s top 10 new distilleries, Bradenton’s Loaded Cannon Distillery is the first distillery in Manatee County. Though the spot is a relative newcomer, it has held the Best Flavored Vodka Distillery in Florida title from guidetoflorida.com for two years running. Try the Anney’s Blade jalapeño vodka (made in a 500-gallon copper still nicknamed “Anney”). Tours of Loaded Cannon’s facilities include education on production, fermentation, and bottling, followed by a five spirit sampling session.

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