With everything from craft cocktails to Florida IPAs, The Courtesy bar has been turning Central Floridians into well-educated cocktail connoisseurs since 2012, long before the speakeasy trend came to town.
The creative duo behind the downtown hotspot, Diana and Gene Zimmerman, take pride in ensuring every detail is met. From the prized Luxardo cherries used in their seasonal bourbon recipes to their locally made bitters infused with everything from tobacco to rhubarb, each concoction is carefully dreamed up and executed by the talented mixologists who man the bar.
For those who want to try their hand making their own drinks, the monthly cocktail classes allow for up to 12 guests to enjoy a two-hour lesson featuring three of the month’s themed cocktails. Recipes here think outside of the box without being pretentious, including this month’s Rotating Old Fashioned, accented with mole bitters and dark chocolate.
“Contributing to the livelihoods of Orlandians in places that they can be fiercely proud to work is a pretty amazing feeling,” Gene says. “It also lifts us up when we walk into our places of business and we see smiles from our guests, and we hear their compliments and their ‘Wows!’ or ‘Yums!’ When people tell us, ‘This is the best [blank] I’ve ever had,’ or ‘You have changed the way I think about spirits or wine,’ we know we’re doing something right.”
With so much attention to detail, it’s clear why The Courtesy’s cocktail classes book up quickly. That expertise also expands into their catering offerings, which are available for everything from weddings and at-home parties to the Indie Folk Fest at the Mennello Museum and openings at Snap! Gallery.
That same eye for business came to fruition when the couple decided to open DoveCote in 2016. With a French-inspired menu created by Chef Clay Miller and an impressive list of comfort cuisine, DoveCote delivers a bevy of well-made dishes suitable for a variety of tastes.
“Like The Courtesy, we wanted our restaurant to also offer a broad palate of possibilities,” Gene says. “It was important for the decor to be inspiring and the cuisine to offer the quick and easy as well as more composed dishes. We wanted a space for all occasions where everyone is always welcome.”
With respect to that community, DoveCote has also partnered with IDignity, a local organization that assists disadvantaged Central Floridians in gaining employment by helping them obtain important documents such as birth certificates and social security and ID cards.
“We host the principals of this great organization when they are dining with donors,” Gene says. “Chef Clay Miller participated in their Souper Duper annual signature event, and we host their annual fundraiser, which last year was a Casino Night.”
Next on the Zimmermans’ agenda, The Courtesy is collaborating with Foxtail’s Farmhouse on the wine and low-ABV cocktail program at Farmhouse while DoveCote is curating a large percentage of the food program at various Foxtails slated to open around the city.
“We are driven by our patrons and our friends/colleagues in the Orlando hospitality scene where diversity is never at a shortage,” Gene says. “We like to think we sit at a roundtable with our fellow restaurant and bar owners where we continue to push and inspire each other.”
For the Zimmermans, it’s obvious their heart is in everything they do. Whether it’s participating in the local community as small business owners or being parents to their four kids, they know that the most important detail in running any successful relationship, both business and personal, is communication.
“We make time for each other outside of the business, are continually supportive whether it’s a home run or a flop, and always operate with super high levels of communication,” Gene says. “Owning a business(es) with a spouse can be very trying since you are completely entrenched in the manic nature of said business, but it can also be incredibly gratifying as you are creating something that is hopefully really compelling with the person you love most.”
From the bar to the dinner table, this is one dynamic duo that continues to prove Orlando’s downtown has a little bit of something for everyone.