To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, Miami gets no (mixological) respect. It’s still far better known for nightclubs requiring bottle service than watering holes serving classic concoctions.
For a number of years, the acclaimed Florida Room in the Delano Hotel offered a compromise, with delicious drinks as well as bottle service. That spot closed in 2012, but don’t worry; cocktail fans are in no danger of going thirsty. There are a number of establishments that have stepped up to fill the void. So pack your suntan lotion and check out a few of my favorites.
Inside the swanky SLS Hotel in South Beach, you’ll find several high-end spots to eat and drink, including José Andrés’ famous restaurant The Bazaar. Bar Centro is where you can try the chef’s experimental molecular elixirs made with emulsifiers, liquid nitrogen and spherification, but there are also plenty of fresh-fruit cocktails for those who aren’t feeling quite so adventurous.
What to Drink: LN2 Caipirinha (cachaça, lime juice, sugar, frozen with liquid nitrogen)
The Broken Shaker was only supposed to be a pop-up, but it was so successful that it’s now a permanent feature of the Freehand Hotel. The joint (pictured above) was dreamed up by Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta, who run local consultancy Bar Lab. It’s even decorated with their own personal collection of shakers and other memorabilia.
What to Drink: Southern Element (Fords Gin, soursop [guanabana] juice, Cocci Americano, simple syrup, lemon juice, sage)
“The Beverage Book” at the elegant Cyprus Room begins with a list of aperitif cocktails that will get your appetite going for the establishment’s gourmet meals. Its classic tipples will make the traditionalists happy, and its barrel-aged concoctions will satisfy those looking for the latest trends. Plus, there are special original creations from talented bartender Robert Montero.
What to Drink: Calle Ocho (J.M Rhum Agricole, hibiscus, lime juice, tonic, egg white, coconut water, nasturtium)
One look at the cocktail list was all it took for me to fall for the Khong River House. The menu includes both “seven reasons to like gin” and also “43 ways to drink a Negroni.” And that’s not to mention that the back bar stocks an amazing 43 different brands of gin.
What to Drink: The Dutch Crumpet (Bols Genever, Earl Grey tea syrup, Lillet Blanc, lemon juice)
Named for the largest island in Hong Kong, Lantao showcases food from across Asia. Its cocktails, created by head bartender Chad Phillips, complement the diverse cuisine. He is a mad scientist at heart and enjoys playing with infusions and bitters in his cocktails. You can even order his tipples poolside at the adjacent Sand Bar.
What to Drink: Will You Daiquiri Me? (strawberry- and kiwi-infused Flor de Caña Rum, lime, sugar)
Beverage manager Ashley Danella earned her stripes behind the stick at some of Miami’s finer establishments. She is now in charge of all things liquid at PB Steak, which serves great steak, great oysters, great beer and great cocktails. It’s a simple formula, and that’s executed perfectly here.
What to Drink: Scarlet Letter (vodka, house-made raspberry jam, rosemary, bitters, seltzer)
Every city has a hangout where bartenders head after their shifts to have shots of Jameson and a pint. That den of inequity in Miami is Purdy Lounge. (It’s open until 5 AM each day.) Its motto is “Cold beer. Strong drinks. Live music. Friendly staff.” I couldn’t have described it better myself.
What to Drink: Shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a beer of your choice
The Regent Cocktail Club, which opened last winter, gives you a taste of glamorous 1940s-era Miami. The decor is elegant, the music swinging jazz and the drinks old-school. No surprise, since the place is run by award-winning barman John Lermayer. Looking for a more modern experience? Check out The Regent’s sister bar Rec Room, which is a hybrid of a craft-cocktail bar and a nightclub.
What to Drink: Hemingway Daiquiri (Caña Brava Rum, maraschino liqueur, grapefruit juice, lime juice)
Bar manager Robert Ferrara has compiled an impressive selection of spirits and cocktails that pair perfectly with the dishes from renowned chef John Kunkel at this brand-new spot. The restaurant is an ode to Southern cooking, pigs and whiskey.
What to Drink: Buck & Gable (George Dickel Rye Whiskey, house-made ginger beer, The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters, black pepper)