New York may take credit for kickstarting the craft cocktail revolution, but Miami is quickly becoming the hottest North American city for a freshly mixed drink.
From the classic martini to new-school recipes that draw inspiration from the city’s rich cultural heritage, Miami’s cocktail scene is creative, bold and nothing short of fabulous. Read on for our pick of Miami’s best cocktail hideouts, whether that be sexy glamour in South Beach or a dive backyard in Wynwood.
Bar, Nightclub, American, $$$
Gramps offers a well-made cocktail without the dress code | Courtesy of Good Exposure
Sometimes you just want a decent craft cocktail, but without the crystal chandeliers, strict dress code and steep price tag. At Gramps, that’s exactly what you get. If it weren’t for the sign saying “air conditioning, cold beer and cocktails” out front, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the bright orange, container-shaped building for a dive launderette or diner. But, inside rests a homey, palm tree-dotted backyard strung up with technicolor bistro lights, a mismatch of furniture made from hand-painted recycled crates, and, on Wednesdays, the fabulous Miss Toto leading a fierce, highly entertaining game of bingo. If you get hungry, there’s a pizza truck out back, too. Check their Facebook page for a schedule of drag shows, live music, DJ sets, bingo and trivia nights.
Set up by award-winning bartenders John Lermayer and Dan Binkiewicz, Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company is arguably Miami’s most famous cocktail bar. And there’s a reason for that: their 27-strong cocktail list impresses even the harshest of drink critics. The “classy classics” give a whole new lease on life to the ubiquitous margarita and the gimlet, while their “fancy cocktails” play with flavors such as sweet potato juice, rhubarb and rose mist, and Jamaican coffee beans. Staying true to the party-loving neighborhood, Sweet Liberty always has a ‘90s hip-hop playlist blasting from the speakers – a tactic that never fails to get people up on their feet. Don’t miss their happy hour available every day from 4pm-7pm.
The brainchild of producer Pharrell Williams and Miami hospitality giant David Grutman, Bar Bevy’s cocktail list certainly has an A-list air about it. The menu sees a bold combination of flavors, like the elderflower liquor mixed with watermelon, basil honey, rosemary and black pepper in the Strawberry Moon, the silver tequila infused with sweet Sauternes wine and orange marmalade in Framboise, and the prosecco and St-Germain liqueur with a hint of fresh rose and lavender in Flowers. The decor is just as bold: think crushed velvet futons, Moroccan-style wooden lattice tables, and a luxurious palette of deep teal, purples and golds. If all that cocktail-sipping has you feeling hungry, stop by the pink-hued Swan restaurant below for some spaghetti tossed with caviar or burrata topped with fresh figs prepared by Top Chef season three winner, Jean Imbert.
Don’t be fooled by the name, there’s nothing ordinary about this all-night, 365-days-a-year drinking hideout in Brickell. One of the few places in the world where you can watch the sunrise with a drink in hand every day of the year, Blackbird Ordinary is the cocktail bar you can always depend on. Its unusual opening hours (24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year) aren’t the only draw, though – Blackbird boasts a drink menu of 20 cocktails, 36 craft beers and almost just as many bourbons and single malt scotches. The always-packed pool table, nightly live music performances, and an interesting crowd of suited bankers, baggy-jean hipsters and glamorous fashionistas makes the 5am close on a Monday seem perfectly normal once you’re here.
If you’re looking for a mixed drink a little different from the rest, Kaido – a Japanese restaurant and cocktail bar in Miami’s Design District – is where you want to be once the sun sets. Expert bartenders in this futuristic, Tokyo-style drinking bolthole are serving up deconstructed classics with a Japanese flare: think bold mash-ups like Shiso Negroni (where orange peel is replaced with shiso leaf) and Kaido Picklebacks (where pickle juice is substituted by shiitake brine and a rare Japanese whiskey). The food, beautifully presented and just as adventurous, is worth sticking around for, too.
The hottest bar and restaurant to appear on the Miami scene this year, Cafe La Trova is making waves with its old-school Cuban flare. The cocktail menu is inspired by 1980s Miami-Cuban culture with fruit-infused rums, lime juice and fresh sugarcane taking center stage. The decor is no different: expect Havana old-world luxury in the form of crumbling walls, crystal chandeliers and bartenders dressed in burgundy red bowties and waistcoats. The outdoor patio chases the same Cuban-inspired atmosphere, where you can play dominoes as you peruse the after-dinner cigar menu. If all that rum-drinking and cigar-smoking has you dreaming of steak empanadas or paella croquetas, fear not: those are prominent menu items.
With an award-winning drink menu that changes seasonally, you can always rely on the Freehand’s hotel bar to shake you up the freshest cocktail in Miami Beach. Each elixir, syrup and infusion here is made on-site with garden-fresh herbs and spices, which include the perfect mix of local and international produce. To give you an idea of Broken Shaker’s genius, past concoctions include Don Q Blanco laced with cinnamon, baked sweet potato, honey and citrus, and a Lovers Prosecco layered with pistachio extract, crème de pêche and Jamaican Dragon Stout. Choose from an intimate, 1920s speakeasy feel inside, or opt instead for a deckchair in their lush green, fairy-lit garden out back. If you’re a group of six or more, call ahead to book a table.
Miami’s massive Cuban influence is paid homage to through Cuba’s favorite national drink: the mojito. The Miami Mojito Company is an intimate, Tiki-style bar dedicated to one thing only, and that’s serving killer Cuban mojitos. Choose from the classic mojito loaded with mint and freshly pressed sugarcane juice, or branch out with a fruity concoction of raspberry, pineapple, tamarindo or passionfruit. Each cocktail is prepared with love and served with a little stick of sugarcane to munch on. No need for fancy attire here – flip flops and shorts will do just fine.