A few weeks ago we received a message from Alex, a lovely lady who was moving to Sanford from Maryland. She was wondering if we wouldn't mind escorting her for her first proper drink in our fair town and she left the location up to us. Ummmm, what a dream come true for Drink Sanford! We were honored that Alex reached out to us to introduce her to our favorite drinking town with a historical problem.
Starting with a Legend
But a twinge of panic set in. "Wait, where DO we take a newbie for their FIRST Sanford beverage?" There are many great selections, but the pressure was on. Like many firsts, you don't get a do-over!
After probing her a little bit to find out what she normally enjoyed drinking, we discovered we had mutual interests in gin and bourbon. Her beer game isn't too strong yet, but she seemed open to anything.
Armed with that information we felt there was really only one place that can satisfy the all of the senses and imbibing pleasures for a first-time Sanford drinker - Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe. I mean, amiright?
The Willow Tree opened in Downtown Sanford in 2001 and has played a large role in the growth of Sanford and it's eccentricity. "The Tree" has attracted visitors from all over the globe and provides a memorable experience for all who eat and drink there. It seemed only right that we begin Alex's Sanford story here.
With a full bar, lively atmosphere, friendly staff, and Gemütlichkeit (the German word for happiness, friendliness, coziness), we welcomed Alex to Sanford with open arms and clinked glasses for each "zicke zacke zicke zacke hoi hoi hoi."
The First Drink
To honor her voyage South, as well as our German setting, Alex ordered a house specialty drink, the German Iced Tea. Comprised of ginger peach tea with lemon and Bärenjäger Honig Schnapps, this tall and refreshing drink contrasted nicely with the gloomy weather outside (sorry for the terrible weather we've been having, Alex!).
I ordered a delicious Munich Mule and the Mr. had a pint of beer.
And anyone's first outing in Sanford should include the Willow Tree's famous Bavarian pretzel with "sweet mustard and Obazda, a savory spread of cream cheese, sour cream, beer, diced onions, salt, pepper, and sweet paprika."
The Willow Tree ist wunderbar, ya'll! But we still had a little more #Sanfording to do . . .
And Now This is #Sanfording!
The Mr. had a Sanford Historic Trust meeting to attend so we parted ways for a bit with him. In the meantime, Alex and I walked down 1st St. and Sanford Ave. and I tried my best to give a lay of the land and point out Sanford highlights along the way.
We perched ourselves at Bitters & Brass as I wanted her to see the extensive cocktail list. She threw caution to the wind by ordering a "bartender's choice." Chris made her a Bee's Knees (gin, lemon juice, honey syrup) and can we say it was BEEautiful?
And since it was Tiki Night, Alex continued to impress me by following up her Bee's Knees with a Jet Pilot (with three different rums!).
Since Alex said she was a bourbon girl we HAD to sign her up for the Whiskey Club. It's basically a #DrinkSanford requirement.
The Imperial was also filled with some of our Downtown Sanford friends and we were happy to be able to introduce Alex to them. Good drinks and good conversation. We finally called it a night and all Ubered home safely.
Since then we've also introduced her to Tuffy's Bottle Shop & Lounge and we look forward to hanging out and experiencing more of Sanford with her!
Q&A with Alex
We gave Alex some time to process her experience and followed up with some questions on her experience.
Which drink was most intriguing to you?
"I thought the Jet Pilot was the most intriguing. I've worked with a lot of Naval aviators and I think they'd love it since that drink was the coolest thing in the bar that night, just like every cocky jet pilot thinks they are. Plus, the burning cinnamon stick really looked like afterburners on a jet! Oh, and the whiskey club at the Imperial was fun! I'll get my name on the wall one of these days . . ."
First impressions of Sanford? Similarities and/or differences to Maryland?
"Sanford and Annapolis are two cities that are proud of their history and are also figuring out how to grow. I think that's a great dynamic because it creates an opportunity for residents think about what kind of town they want to live in."
What advice would you give to other new Sanfordites?
"Drive or walk down by the lake in the morning. Hardly anyone is there and it's a really lovely way to start the day. Don't be afraid to tell people you're new. Everyone here has been so welcoming. And obviously follow @DrinkSanford!"