When it comes to nightlife on Pensacola Beach, nothing quite compares to the Sandshaker. When you walk in, there’s a certain sense of nostalgia, even if you’ve never been here before … a feeling of discovering a spot unlike anywhere else, that also seems vaguely familiar.
If you don’t smoke, prepare to smell like you do, unless of course you grab your drink from the outdoor bar and climb to the top deck, where you can see the Gulf of Mexico from your perch across the street. There’s live music Wednesday through Sunday all year long, so the party never stops.
Inside, the floors are sandy, the ceilings are carpeted and the barstools are rarely empty. Maybe it’s because you feel like family the moment you sit down, as soon as your friendly bartender pours what you’re drinking.
We sat down with bartender Tammy and bar back Chris, who love working here because of the longstanding history and strong local flavor – the place has a lot of heart.
“We have a lot of regulars who always show up on time for their ‘shift,’” Tammy says. “We meet people here who we keep up with when they go home, and we see them again summer after summer.”
Tammy tells us a lot of couples meet here, then return to celebrate their anniversaries. There are Mardi Gras krewes, college kids, snowbirds and more – a steady flow of different personalities and age groups that certainly keep things interesting.
“People come here because they see people they know,” Chris said – of both the clientele and the staff. There’s not a lot of turnover at this old beach bar, with many of the bartenders well into a decade of service.
Girls leave, get degrees, join the corporate world and then come back. At least that’s what Tammy did. “Most of us bartenders have college degrees and choose to be here,” she says. “It’s a good place to be. We’re a family.”
If you want to try the drink that put this hometown dive bar on the map, order a Bushwacker – a smooth, frozen concoction that will never taste as good as it does right here. (Probably because it will never be this strong – the rum, either 80 proof or 151 for the brave-hearted, is poured in last.)
In 1975, the Shaker’s original owner took a barefoot cruise to the Virgin Islands, tasted the drink – made with Crème de Cacao, Kahlua and rum blended with ice – then came home to experiment with ingredients before perfecting the Shaker Bushwacker.
Today, the bartenders continue to experiment, adding fresh bananas for the “Banana Bushwacker”, Crème de Menthe for the “Dirty Girl Scout” and Sailor Jerry to create the “Jerrywacker”.
Owned by Sonny and Beverly Campbell, the Sandshaker has been shakin’ for more than 40 years. Spend 40 minutes at the bar, and you may even meet someone who’s been coming here that long.
We’ll see you at the Shaker.