Cocktails & Spirits

Revolutionary War-Themed Bar Nancy Serves Sophisticated Cocktails in Little Havana

Welcome aboard.
Welcome aboard. Courtesy of Bar Nancy
The Nancy was a Revolutionary War supply ship said to be the first U.S. vessel to hoist its flag in a foreign port. Today, its hull rests somewhere at the bottom of Delaware Bay. Yet a group of Miami bartenders has salvaged and raised her in the form of a laid-back drinking hole in the heart of Little Havana called Bar Nancy.

"The bar was developed on a story, an idea, and everything else developed around that," founder Derek Stilmann says. The 29-year-old who developed Pawn Broker's drink program is one of the band of owners who cobbled together the latest addition to the city's growing conglomerate of cocktail lounges. The founders include Ben Koufopoulos — who helped build Purdy Lounge, Burger & Beer Joint, the Stage, Will Call, PB Station, and Pawn Broker — as well as Stage owner Sasha-Alexandre Torres. Other co-owners and operators include Katherine Rajsich, Lizz Dominguez, David Perez, Jamal Giles, and Anthony Acuna.

"Everyone here gave their time, gave their sweat, and has a piece of the pie," Stilmann says. The result is a bar with a decidedly rustic feel. It's one becoming all too uncommon as big money begins to flow into new bars. The cocktails get better, but the feel of some places is so prim and polished, letting loose seems out of the question.

At Nancy, the back bar is built to mimic a ship's stern, painted aquamarine and adorned with a wispy N. A Betsy Ross American flag hangs on the far end of the room littered with metal and dark-wood tables and chairs. Paintings of octopi, Greek gods and goddesses, and sea life are strewn across the walls.

Meanwhile, the cocktail menu follows the bar's namesake's life. The first section tells the story of the ship's construction in Delaware with American spirits-focused drinks like the Moonraker ($13) with American Born moonshine, Batavia Arak, barley reduction, sesame oil, and a purple corn foam; and Ben's Milk Punch ($13). The latter comes in a corked glass flask and with rum, mallow root, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, and lemon conjures up a pumpkin-pie flavor.

In the next section, the drinks take a turn toward tiki to commemorate when the Nancy raised her flag in St. Thomas at the end of the Revolutionary War. The Layday ($12) blends Flor de Caña rum with blackberry shrub, lime, and saline solution, while the Dodo Bird ($12) mixes up Cruzan rum, a Jamaican black rum, chamomile campari, spiced pineapple, and lime.

The curtain call is a five-pack of biting, assertive drinks to commemorate the Nancy's final moments in which her crew, after taking heavy fire from British warships, lured redcoats aboard to raid her stores of gunpowder, then scuttled the ship by igniting 50 pounds of black powder wrapped around its mast. The Gunner's Daughter ($13) is a swift, bitter yet sweet kick in the ass with gunpowder-tea-infused Courvoisier, Rittenhouse rye, Zucca, Cynar, ruby port, and strawberry bitters.

Despite the heavy story, Bar Nancy is light on kitsch. "It's a fine line," Stilmann says. Yet he and the Nancy crew toe it well. Of course, no bartender in Miami would, or should, have the gumption to try to take on the glitz and glory of the Fort Lauderdale tiki utopia that is the Mai-Kai Restaurant.

Bar Nancy
2007 SW Eighth St., 305-397-8971; Sunday through Wednesday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Thursday and Friday 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., Saturday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson

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