Best of Miami 2014: Ten Boozy Winners
The 2014 edition of Best of Miami is live, and it's filled with 320 of our favorite restaurants, bars, shops, and people.
Although we love everything about Miami (especially its restaurants), you know what we really love? The booze.
From the perfect bloody mary to the top new bar, Best of Miami 2014 celebrates all manner of boozy delights. Here are ten of our favorites to start the weekend.
See also: Best of Miami 2014
One night in Bangkok...
Photo by Laine Doss
Best New Bar: Patpong Road
In Miami Beach, where too many clubs for the glamor set pretentiously serve Goose and Bulls for 20 bucks a pop, finding a bar that doesn't take itself too seriously is as relieving as snagging an ocean breeze on a muggy July afternoon. Patpong Road, brought to you by 50 Eggs, the people behind restaurants such as Yardbird, Swine, and Khong River House, is named for the notorious red-light district in Thailand and offers a cheeky play on a "naughty" night in Bangkok. As you walk up the tin steps into the tiny room, bathed in not-too-subtle red light, you step up to the bar. There, you'll find all the "retro" favorite cocktails you loved in college but are now too "grown up" to drink. Seriously, dude, when was the last time you had a kamikaze or a Long "Thailand" iced tea? The bar puts playful twists on the drinks, though, as in its version of the Sloe Screw. Renamed "A Long, Sloe, Comfortably Spicy Screw up by the Wall," it adds chili syrup, Southern Comfort, génépy, and vodka to the classic recipe. Drinks such as that make perfect sense to sip as you listen to the "latest" tracks by Prince, Culture Club, and Madonna. Patpong Road is kitschy, hilarious, and just plain fun. It's like being at a drunk Thailand pavilion at Epcot -- a little bawdy, but ultimately good, delightfully fake times.
Rock the pool!
Photo by Jose de las Casas
Best Poolside Bar: Hyde Beach
Time for some real talk: It's damn difficult to mess up a poolside bar in Miami. You're beside a pool. There's a bar. You purchase cocktails, dip your feet into the water, and basically live the American dream as you sip your way to the bottom. How hard can this be, people? Yet an astonishing number of Miami hotels have conspired to ruin this simplest of good things with eye-poppingly overpriced drinks, shoddy service, and pools that are either inaccessibly hip or packed to the gills with sunburned out-of-towners. So props to Hyde Beach for getting it so right. Inside, the bar is decked out like a '70s Brady Bunch rec room, but outside there's 8,000 square feet of pool and beach fun. There are pitchers of mango mojitos ($80) and cucumber watermelon margaritas ($18), or for true backyard ballers, bottles of Moët & Chandon Ice ($475) and vases of sangria made tableside ($200).
This martini is only five bucks.
Photo by Laine Doss
Best Happy Hour: Doraku Sushi
Question not found on a recent SAT:
Sally had a shitty day at work. She's hangry and needs a few drinks but has only 20 bucks. What does Sally do?
A. She goes home -- this is South Beach. You can't eat and drink for $20.
B. She buys a few cans of Four Loko at 7-Eleven and drinks them in the park.
C. She goes to Doraku during happy hour (5 to 7 p.m. daily) and gets two lychee martinis (two for $5 each), a California roll ($3), a crunchy crab roll ($4), and an order of edamame ($2).
Please think carefully before answering.
Hemingway would have had a few.
Courtesy of Bar Centro/The Bazaar by José Andrés
Best Cocktails: Bar Centro by José Andrés
Cocktails in these heady days are complex magic tricks, summoned from the ether by the showstoppers known as bartenders. But just as there's a difference between a Houdini and the clown at kiddie parties, there's a huge gulf in skill behind all the smoke and mirrors fluffing up craft cocktails around town. That's why the cocktails at Bar Centro are so satisfying. True, they're gorgeous, and there's a fair share of showmanship with liquid nitrogen and props. But the cleverest of cocktails has to be well-rounded and delicious. Which is where José Andrés comes in. He's a master at making food that's both whimsical and delicious, and his chef-meets-Cirque du Soleil sensibilities translate to the cocktail menu. Here, a margarita ($16) is kissed by "salt air" (a bit of sea foam floating in the glass substitutes for a salt rim, giving you a more nuanced bit of salt in every sip); a dirty martini ($16) is graced with an olive spherification that bursts briny juice into your mouth when firmly pressed between your teeth; and a caipirinha ($16) is turned into a potent brain-freeze-inducing lime granita when mixed with liquid nitrogen. Each sip? Magical.
Beer and grub. Simple and good.
Best Bar Food: Duffy's Tavern
From the cash-only status to the friendly faces behind the bar, not all that much has changed at Duffy's Tavern in the past 25 years. Considering that this Red Road institution hits the trifecta of any great neighborhood bar -- TV sets tuned to live sports, reasonable beer prices, and, of course, tasty food you can eat with your hands -- that's one status quo we're thrilled to see maintained. Duffy's cranks out delicious renditions of all the usual suspects -- chicken wings, burgers, and nachos -- with some well-known specialties, like the Death Dog, a dangerously spicy frank whose ingredients remain top secret. Don't be too alarmed -- wary folks can order the chili cheese dogs, which come packed and weigh a quarter-pound. Pints of beer start at $3 (with pitchers at just $10), and the mugs are always frosted. Duffy's might not be situated at the end of a rainbow, but the ceiling decorated in kitschy posters, the beer bottle chandelier, and the license plate collection on the bathroom walls make this place Celtic gold.
Elegance in a glass.
Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove
Best Martini: Lazuli Lounge
Of all the cocktails in the world, the martini conjures up the most romance. After all, it's the drink that James Bond sips (shaken, not stirred) in those moments between bedding a gorgeous babe and saving Her Majesty and mankind. Because of that, note must be made not only of those who take proper care in the making of the martini, but also in the ambiance of the drink. Even the best-made cocktail of its ilk loses face if served in a red Solo cup. Which is why you're at Lazuli Lounge, the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove's indigo-tinged oasis, for the Spice of the Ritz-Carlton ($14). Just like Bond and one of his girls, spicy pepper vodka coos to fragrant St-Germain as they're both kissed by lime and heated by red pepper flakes. Sexy and sophisticated, it's the ultimate cocktail for the international man (or woman) of mystery.
Get to the bar. Have a bloody good time.
Courtesy of Morgans Restaurant
Best Bloody Mary: The Morgans Restaurant
The bloody mary's origins are continually debated. Its alleged progenitors include Queen Mary I of England, comedian George Jessel, and French bartender Fernand Petiot. Most drinkers, however, don't give a hoot how it began; they just need that good old-fashioned hangover cure -- and fast. Though Miami's focus on nightlife has made finding a good version of this daytime drink a challenge, the Morgans Restaurant's bloody saki offers a refreshing twist on the classic. It includes fresh tomato purée and juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, hot sauce, celery salt, ground black pepper, and Old Bay seasoning. Instead of the traditional vodka, Morgans opts for Gekkeikan sake. Before you bemoan the loss of liquor, the lightness of the sake makes this bloody an even better postpartying option. While neutrally flavored vodka typically lets the tomato foundation take over, the sake adds a touch of bittersweet saltiness that complements the drink well. Generously portioned and garnished with olives, lemon, and celery, the $10 bloody saki is a satisfying steal.
Lots of wine.
Photo by Carolina del Busto
Best Wine Bar: Uvaggio
What sets this wine bar apart from others? It puts wine at the center of everything. At Uvaggio, a classy little hole in the wall on Miracle Mile's long strip, the menu celebrates and elevates the grownups' juice. The menu is shaped by the wine selection. Instead of recommending a drink to go along with your meal, waiters recommend a small dish to pair with your wine. The cocktails aren't even safe from this dictum: no vodka or rum here. Instead, the chef and sommelier base their cocktails on sparkling wines and the like. Speaking of the chef and sommelier, Uvaggio employs a topnotch team, including former Top Chef contestant Bret Pelaggi, world-class sommelier Heath Porter, and wine collector and businessman Craig DeWald -- so you know you're in the right place for drinks and exquisitely prepared dishes.
Beer, poolside. That is all.
Best Beer Garden: Lou's Beer Garden
You might be over the word "chillax," but you can still get behind the sentiment. Try sitting poolside in a non-sceney way with a cold brew while devouring delectable mini crabcakes with bitching sauce ($17). That's what Lou's Beer Garden has to offer. It's a hidden gem in North Beach that's like the kid brother of the Broken Shaker. You will feel like you're in a friend's backyard -- if that friend had an awesome beer collection that took up the whole center column of a menu. Lou's has served everything from banana bread beer to big Belgian to local Florida ales. Sure, they make pretty good mixed drinks, but you come here for the craft beer libations, ambiance, and crabcakes.
Fresh beer made locally.
Photo by Laine Doss
Best Brewery: Wynwood Brewing Company
It was only a few years ago that Miami's beer scene was dismal. But then something wonderful happened. Passionate homebrewers emerged and formed a community. These dedicated men and women brewed keg upon keg, turning garages and spare bedrooms into tiny breweries. They spent thousands of dollars only to give the fruits of their labor away. These beers began gaining a following and winning accolades, which led to some making the leap. Wynwood's family brewery was one of the first to open. It makes about a half-dozen standards, with seasonal and small-batch beers always on tap in the tasting room, which also serves as a showcase for local emerging artists. And the beer? From the refreshing La Rubia to the rich Pop's Porter, they're satisfying, fresh, and unique.
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