Cocktails & Spirits

Sweetwater, and Now Saxon, Continue to Fuel South Florida's Craft Cocktail Culture

If you want to get technical, it all started in 2010. That's when Sweetwater co-founders Clint Reed and Sean Iglehart took a cross-country trip — traveling to more than 30 bars in three days from Portland to New York City — in search of what makes a good bar program truly great. 

"There was a different culture that was being created all over the country, places offering more than just the typical bar experience," says Reed. "Sean and I realized the void here. Outside of Miami, South Florida really lacked any type of drinking scene. When it came to cocktail culture, it really wasn't here yet."

To remedy that, in 2011 the duo opened its first joint venture in a quiet residential plaza on the outskirts of Boynton Beach. Far removed from any local downtown hub or nearby city streets, it was hardly the type of place you'd expect to find a perfectly crafted classic cocktail.

Today, with its speakeasy-esque, Prohibition-style bar program, Sweetwater is known as ground-zero for Palm Beach County drinking culture, and the resulting craft cocktail explosion that's developed over the past several years.

While the South Florida imbibing scene has grown considerably, you won't find Reed or Iglehart sitting idle. Instead, they're continuing to pioneer new turf in the world of imbibing with the launch of their latest concept, Saxon.

The Saxon menu is unique to the area, changing every few weeks not according to seasons or spirits but instead by specific theme. With this concept, the pair has devised a bar program that will never fall stagnant.

When it opened in March, the establishment's short list of cocktails opened with an ode to a bygone era, a theme based on the British drama series Downton Abbey; today, it offers an eyebrow-raising play on the world-renowned New York nightclub Studio 54.

A few weeks from now the theme will change once more, says Reed, perhaps a way to celebrate a popular television show, famous novel, or to commemorate a major event in U.S. history.

The current menu, which debuted last week, is all about "shock and awe," adds Iglehart. Of the six cocktails on the menu, perhaps the most shocking is the Dead Hooker, a combination of blackberry liqueur and lemon juice delivered to patrons on a mirrored tray.

Like all the drinks at Saxon, this one is meant to be more than just your average sip. Instead of a pretty garnish, the cocktail comes with a few added elements: a miracle berry tablet (meant to change sour flavors to sweet) and a few "lines" of lemon powder, fun props that mimic the 1970s' drug-filled disco days. Also an interactive experience, the drink begins mouth-puckeringly tart and — after you chew that little pink tab — becomes intensely saccharine.

While permanence is a rarity in the bar world, after six years in the business Reed and Iglehart continue to be a mainstay in the ever-evolving South Florida cocktail scene. Despite a growing cocktail culture in both Broward and Palm Beach counties — and a growing pool of talent behind the bar — there's no denying Sweetwater and Saxon's ongoing appeal with concepts that strike the perfect balance of modern trends, original innovation, and the good ole' days, all at once.

"We're constantly progressing, constantly evolving," says Iglehart. "It's not always just about delivering a local experience. We're always trying to push the boundaries and get people to experience something that's beyond what's comfortable or familiar."

Sweetwater and Saxon are located at 1507 S. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach. Call 561-509-9277, or visit

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna