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.
BAR CENTRO, 1701 COLLINS AVENUE, MIAMI BEACH, 305-674-1701:
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, 2727 INDIAN CREEK DRIVE, MIAMI BEACH, 786-325-8974:
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 CYPRESS ROOM, 3620 NORTHEAST 2ND AVENUE, 305-520-5197:
"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)
KHONG RIVER HOUSE, 1661 MERIDIAN AVENUE, MIAMI BEACH, 305-763-8147:
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)
LANTAO, 1717 COLLINS AVENUE, MIAMI BEACH, 305-604-1800:
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)
PB STEAK, 1787 PURDY AVENUE, MIAMI BEACH, 305-695-9550:
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)
PURDY LOUNGE,1811 PURDY AVENUE, MIAMI BEACH, 305-531-4622:
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 a.m. 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, 1690 COLLINS AVENUE, MIAMI BEACH, 305-673-0199:
The Regent Cocktail Club, which opened last winter, gives you a taste of glamorous 1940s-era Miami. The décor 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)
SWINE, 2415 PONCE DE LEON BOULEVARD, CORAL GABLES, 786-360-6433:
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)
Simon Ford is an award-winning bartender and co-founder of The 86 Co. He is also a Liquor.com advisory board member.
This story was originally published at One for the Road: Miami. For more stories like this join Liquor.com and drink better. Plus, for a limited time get How to Cocktail in 2013, a cocktail recipe book — free! Join now.