The DRIFT Experience, Pensacola Beach
Drawing inspiration for its namesake from an awe-inspiring sunset experience in Mexico, Drift – home to the infamous Cabo Cocktail – is one of the trendiest hotspots to hit our sandy shores.
Have you ever sat on the beach watching boats quietly and effortlessly drift out of view while the fire-orange sunsets against a horizon of pink, purple, and blue? For a brief moment, all you can hear is the water lapping the brilliant white sand. During those few moments, you are more present and relaxed than you have been all day.
Drawing from an awe-inspiring sunset experience in Mexico is how Matt and Stacy LaFon envisioned their concept for DRIFT – the latest trendsetting upscale dining experience perched high above Casino Beach Bar and Grille on Pensacola Beach. Making DRIFT unique is the uninterrupted panoramic view of the Gulf from every seat in the house. Be it deck or indoor seating every table boasts the best view. “We created the DRIFT EXPERIENCE as an embodiment to letting worries drift away,” states Matt.
The DRIFT EXPERIENCE is about relaxing and enjoying the breathtaking natural view of the Emerald Coast while indulging on unique local and global flavors. In a climate where the dining atmosphere is equally as important as the menu, DRIFT redefines modern cuisine in a casual upscale dining setting with small-plate offerings that are both different and distinct. Boasting fusion cuisine with crudo, prime steaks, and seafood, Chef John Lipkowitz, Director of Operations & Culinary Arts, is the creative mastermind behind the refined menu.
As trendy and unique as its fare, the DRIFT EXPERIENCE continues with a full bar brimming with spirits and craft cocktail favorites, including the infamous Cabo Cocktail – a blend of Stoli Lime vodka, Bigallet China-China, muddled kiwi and ginger, fresh lime juice, and soda water. Inside the restaurant, the decor is modern beach chic. Given that roughly two-thirds of the walls are entirely glass, designers used various forms of lighting to help create a relaxed coastal ambiance. Matt states, “All of the ceiling light fixtures were critical to the design and branding of the space because there is very little wall space due to the panoramic window views of the Gulf of Mexico.”
Highly unique to the establishment are two stunning replica driftwood chandeliers. “Ed Koehler, based in Naples, FL, is responsible for bringing the driftwood vision to life,” Matt shares. “These pieces are extraordinary. I try to source everything as much as possible locally but couldn’t find just the right pieces to fit our brand,” he continues.
While the desire to locally source is commendable, it is Matt’s efforts within the community that are a true testament to character and spirit. “I was born and raised here – this community means everything to me. I attended Gulf Breeze Elementary, Middle, and High School, and I am an alumnus of the University of West Florida. We partner with several local schools in support of fundraising and community events. We also work with Baptist Healthcare Foundation, Gulf Coast Kids House, and many more organizations along the Gulf Coast.”
Seated above Casino Beach Bar and Grille, DRIFT makes it possible to enjoy both casual dining and upscale cuisine. “Guests can walk up from the white sands of Pensacola Beach in board shorts and flip-flops, and enjoy drinks and island music at Casino Beach Bar & Grille, or make a reservation upstairs at DRIFT and enjoy a more upscale culinary experience with unparalleled panoramic views,” Matt concludes. Designed to promote memorable and quality time with friends and family, the DRIFT EXPERIENCE is one guests will never forget.
Photography by Greg Riegler Photography