Hidden from the street, Herman’s Loan Office is worth the search for a quiet spot to drink and talk.
“A clean, well-lighted place” with craft cocktails such as Dance at Bougival and Don’t Swallow the Cap.
One of the newest entries on Orlando’s craft cocktail scene, Herman’s Loan Office opened quietly in January in a tucked-away spot on Pine Street near Orange Avenue. The location is easily missed if you don’t know what to look for: a small parking lot next to UCF’s downtown campus building. Walk to the back of the lot to a gated entry, and there’s Herman’s.
A sister of the popular local speakeasy Hanson’s Shoe Repair, Herman’s Loan Office is a throwback to 1940 when it operated as a pawn shop and loan shark office. Both venues are operated by V Group Concepts.
Inside, the room exudes a cozy ambiance with intimate seating around a large faux fireplace across from the sleek granite bar. A crystal chandelier and indirect lighting give the place a warm glow. Background music—indie pop, Motown blues, French pop—is kept at a low level. Herman’s caters to a mostly mature crowd and patrons looking to enjoy specialty drinks and conversation in a casual, yet sophisticated setting. It’s ideal for small groups and couples on a date.
If you order one of Herman’s “proprietary cocktails,” be patient. It takes time to make these specialty drinks, many of which feature a blend of Italian and French liqueurs.
“We’re trying to be progressive with our offerings as far as craft cocktails go,” says general manager René Nguyen. “They’re greatly influenced by my travels to metropolitan areas that have a more established scene.”
All of the cocktails, which have rather nonsensical names, are made with exacting precision. Don’t Swallow the Cap is light and refreshing, with Ford’s gin, amaro Montenegro, amaro Nonino, Suze, lemon, bitters, and a garnish of clove-studded lemon peel. Another cocktail, Dance at Bougival, is a blend of Averell Damson gin, Suze, Cynar 70 Proof, Cantina Montelliana Prosecco, and balsamic vinegar. The flavor is reminiscent of a rich stout.
Herman’s Loan Office
Nguyen says he’s always tinkering with recipes, and the drink menu will rotate occasionally, with the exception of a unique offering called “Bespoke Cocktails,” which prompts you to invent your own. Simply select a word from various categories listed on the menu—Light or Dark, Refreshing or Spiritous, Comforting or Adventurous—and based on your chosen words, the bartender will mix your custom cocktail.
For groups of three or more people, you can order a rye or rum punch bowl for $80. And although wine is not available, there is a small selection of beer, and the bar is well-stocked with top-shelf bourbon, rye, scotch, and other spirits.
“Herman’s is… for anyone who wants a reprieve from the majority of downtown—where you’re fighting against loud music and cramped crowds,” says Nguyen.
While it’s not an intimate speakeasy like Hanson’s, Herman’s Loan Office certainly gives that vibe. You may not need a password to get in, but you’ll need a little persistence to find it. And once you do, you can relax and enjoy.