For decades, Chicago, London, and New York have reigned supreme in the cocktail kingdom, with world-class bars such as Dead Rabbit in the Big Apple and American Bar in England turning out exquisite renditions of libations like Blood & Sand and Clover Club. Only recently has Miami Beach taken its rightful place as heir to the throne. What was once a party town filled with bartenders slinging rum-and-Cokes and premade frozen drinks in plastic pool cups is now filled with mixologists passionate about their craft. And each bar is unique, with vibes that range from sultry and sexy to chill and, in one case, freezing.
The best part is that most of these bars are within walking distance of one another, making it easy to experience all of them in one do-it-yourself SoBe cocktail crawl. So here's our suggested route. Each bar comes with a recommended libation, so you even know what to order. The only things you need are a few friends, some cash or a card, and an Uber ride home.
The Rum Line (1601 Collins Ave.; 305-695-0110): This bar, tucked inside the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, is the closest thing to tiki paradise. The Rum Line is open Thursday through Sunday on a hidden patio, giving it a pop-up vibe. Grab a teak chair at the bar or lounge and sip hand-shaken daiquiris, scorpion bowls, and cocktails made using long-lost recipes from the golden days of tiki drinks. If you're stymied by the selection, head bartender Robert Ferrara suggests the Green Eyed Bandit ($13), made with Avua cachaça, fresh-pressed kale and cucumber juices, jalapeño, and a touch of sea salt. "It's two parts healthy, one part fun, with just a touch of spice — what South Beach life is all about," Ferrara says. Go ahead and indulge in another round. "You could literally drink several of these and not feel bad about yourself."
Drinkhouse Fire & Ice (1672 Collins Ave.; 305-534-2423): Drinkhouse Fire & Ice is actually two bars in one. Walk through the unmarked black door to enter the fire lounge, where your bartender, Flip, literally juggles flames. The cocktails are imaginative and intricate, like the Glacier Water ($15), which comes with its own mini iceberg and ship, or the Shocktail ($18), a gin-and-lemonade concoction served with a Szechuan button — a dried flower found in South America, Africa, and Asia. Once consumed, the tiny bud sets your taste buds tingling, taking your tongue on an acid trip of sorts, which enhances the flavor of the drink. Once you've finished your drink at the fire bar, suit up in the faux fur hats and coats provided and step into the 23-degree ice bar. Queen Elsa ain't got nothing on this frozen wonderland, filled with ice sculptures, crystals, and changing light displays. Enjoy a vodka, served in a shot glass made of ice, and take some selfies before heading back to the warmth of the fire bar for a soul-soothing spiked hot chocolate.
The Drawing Room (1801 Collins Ave.; 305 531-1271): The Drawing Room, located in the lobby of the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach, is filled with beakers and bottles identified only by numbers. Those are Albert Trummer's elixirs, the bar owner's own inventions, made from herbs, flowers, and fruits. Trummer's "cocktail prescriptions" are specially designed to cure what ails you. So whether you need to relieve stress, kill pain, or increase your libido, there's a drink that fits the bill. The mixologist, who collaborated with culinary bigwigs like David Bouley and Geoffrey Zakarian, was the genius behind New York's Apotheke and Theater Bar and has taken his skills to Miami Beach. "Doctor" Trummer recommends the House Medicine ($15). "It's made with my elixirs. I mix my vanilla, orange, and rhubarb elixirs that are made with secret herbs and finish it with my absinthe essence to create a pure and natural absinthe cocktail found nowhere else in Miami."
Repour Bar (1650 James Ave.; 305-913-1000): Isaac Grillo, best known for his extravagant cocktails at Haven, opened Repour at the Albion Hotel about six months ago, after years of searching for the right venue. Here, Grillo has created a mountain-lodge feel by fashioning the bar from Colorado lodge pole pine and using frozen river rocks in place of ice in some of the cocktails. The bar menu changes monthly, and drinks are posted on a whiteboard that takes up the better part of the back wall, with drinks divided into different rooms, each with their own personality. Your best bet is to go with a libation from the "garden," where the featured drink is made with herbs and vegetables grown on Repour's patio. The Carrot Patch ($12), for example, is made with Botanist botanical gin, carrot, ginger, turmeric reduction, and celery bitters. The spicy-sweet elixir is an instant pick-me-up and the best way possible to get a dose of vitamins.
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Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company (237-B 20th St.; 305-763-8217): Sweet Liberty is billed as a neighborhood bar, but don't think you'll find the usual Budweiser-and-chicken-wing action here. The powerhouse trio behind Sweet Liberty — restaurateur David Martinez, Blackbird Ordinary's Dan Binkiewicz, and world-class bartender John Lermayer — have taken the "everybody knows your name" concept to new heights, with skillfully created plays on the American pub. If you're looking for an après-beach bite, Lermayer suggests a fried green tomato salad ($9), paired with a glass of rosé on tap ($10). If you're looking for something boozier, Sweet Liberty's old-fashioned is made in the classic style, "a simple and delicious mix of Four Roses bourbon, Angostura bitters, and just a touch of sugar." Sweet Liberty also sells bar tools and bitters in case you're inspired to try some home mixology.
The Regent Cocktail Club (1690 Collins Ave.; 786-975-2555): Step back to a time when sultry songbirds sang jazz standards and vest-clad bartenders carefully constructed cocktails for discerning clientele. The Regent Cocktail Club at the Gale has the vibe of an intimate speakeasy you've probably experienced only in movies. Here, you'd almost expect F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald to come tumbling in for an aviation or a manhattan. Head partner and managing bartender Julio Cabrera (who is as well known for his dapper presence as his bartending skills) is lauded for his precise daiquiris, but he recommends the zombie ($14). "It's a long, refreshing, and colorful tiki drink, and also the most important," he says. Like all zombies, this potent potable comes with a bite. "It's a very powerful concoction, made with three different kinds of rum. I don't think you would need to order a second one."
Broken Shaker (2727 Indian Creek Dr.; 305-531-2727): Though Broken Shaker isn't technically located in South Beach, it's worth the five-minute cab or Uber ride to experience Miami Beach's most decorated bar. Located poolside at the Freehand Miami, the Shaker has been named one of the world's 50 best bars, nominated for a James Beard Award, and received the Best American Hotel Bar Spirited Award at Tales of the Cocktail this year. With all of that recognition, the bar hasn't lost its cozy, unpretentious vibe. People don't come here to show off their designer duds, but to enjoy the booze. Drinks are straightforward, relying on fresh herbs grown on the premises, house-made bitters, and good spirits instead of tricks and foams. Partner Gabriel Orta suggests the smoky margarita ($10), made with mescal, fresh lime, agave, and a spicy salt rim.