Winter in Miami isn't a real thing, but thanks to a cool new cocktail menu at the Local Craft Food & Drink, it can feel like it when you belly up to this Coral Gables bar.
The Local's booze-slinging duo Will Thompson and Michael Albuerne recently launched a winter-inspired cocktail menu at their neighborhood haunt best known for its refined, house-made Southern cuisine by chef/owner Phil Bryant, as well as its topnotch beverage program.
Celebrating the first anniversary of the Bridge Cocktail Lounge — which has become a permanent part of the Local after its insanely popular one-month pop-up — Thompson and Albuerne have developed 11 drinks to help bring a little winter wonderland to Miami palates now through April.
"A winter cocktail doesn't have to be all peppermint, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon. To me, those nostalgic flavor combinations scream New England," Thompson says. "Here in Miami, a winter cocktail can be something bold and warming in place of the usual refreshing drinks to help beat the heat."
Here are six of Thompson and Albuerne's favorites, plus a little backstory on what makes them special:
Chicago Overcoat: Basil Hayden bourbon, Laird’s Applejack, Cocchi Americano, Sage Demerara, Angostura bitters, and cardamom bitters.
Albuerne: We had a wood plank and we were doing nothing with it, so I decided to start smoking cocktails. We debuted this cocktail during a bourbon cocktail dinner pairing. It's in-your-face but also well-balanced — a great sipper.
Thompson: When Mikey first found that wood plank, he was just setting everything on fire. This drink is the result. The rest is history.
Calle Ocho Negroni: A Miami twist on the classic, made with Rutte Old Simon Genever (a predecessor to London dry gin made from juniper), Bittermens Amere Nouvelle, Carpano Antica vermouth, and a house-made Cuban coffee reduction, served in a cold steel glass.
Albuerne: The Negroni is one of my favorite cocktails, and this is one of my favorites on this menu right now. The strong, bitter notes from the coffee liqueur blend perfectly with the bitter components of the Negroni. It's that old-school, grandma-style café colada you have in the morning made into a cocktail, inspired by Miami culture.
Thompson: This drink is a tribute to growing up in Miami and my Cuban heritage. We decided to serve it in a tin cup; I grew up around people who would drink out of a tin cup kept in the freezer. And it's garnished with a tiny Cuban flag.
Lucky Luciano: Campari, Giffard banana liqueur, lemon and orange juices, Orgeat almond liqueur, house-made apple bitters, and club soda.
Albuerne: We named this drink after Will's kid brother. It's basically Italy meets tiki, a bittersweet version of an adult Hawaiian Punch. Think of it as a Campari Mai Tai of sorts.
Thompson: We wanted to make an apéritif-based cocktail, so we started playing with bitters and liqueurs most people aren't too familiar with. Our goal was to begin introducing these flavors little by little. At the end of the day, this is a very refreshing drink that allows an easy entry to enjoying these nontraditional apéritifs and helps people to build the palate for generally bitter-tasting liqueurs like Campari. Think of it as training wheels for appreciating the stronger spirits.
The Thompson: Jameson Black Barrel in place of gin, as well as Cocchi Americano, Carpano Anitca vermouth, green chartreuse, and orange bitters, served in a stemless wine glass with a furry mustache sticker so guests can look like the drink's namesake.
Albuerne: This is our first barrel-aged cocktail [at the Local], but it's also an ode to Will — sorta poking fun at how he's so busy all the time. We even garnish each glass with a furry mustache sticker so guests can dress up as Will, because even though he's not always here, he's still very much a part of this bar.
Thompson: This drink is my take on the classic Bijou [a mixed drink composed of gin, vermouth, and chartreuse], made with my favorite spirit, Jameson Black Barrel, in place of gin. What can I say? This drink is all me. It's balanced and smooth yet very booze-forward — definitely a sipper.
Me So Old-Fashioned: A savory version of the classic prepared using a house-made miso soup reduction, pimiento bitters, orange bitters, and Afrohead dark rum, served in a Chinese take-out box.
Albuerne: This cocktail is another one that speaks to my heritage. It channels my Cantonese background with the miso soup reduction I make myself, the pimiento bitters to add heat and honor the Spaniard in me, and orange bitters for the Florida boy. And last, Afrohead dark rum for my Cuban background.
Thompson: This drink is Mikey's crazy brainchild, trying to do new things that you would never think would go together but somehow do. It's all about honoring his cultural background and his love for food. When he first came to me with the idea, I told him don't do it, but as soon as I tried it, he won me over. After bartending for over a decade, it's one of those moments when even I learned something new.
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Good Will Hunter: Jägermeister, Suze, and pineapple and lime juices served with a candied absinthe rinse.
Albuerne: This drink is all about bringing back a very stereotyped spirit. We wanted to give Jägermeister a good name. You think about it and hate high school, but in this drink, it pairs perfectly with Suze [a bitter French apéritif made from the gentian root], pineapple, and lime juices. At the end of the day, we want people to realize Jäger is more than just another bad shot.
Thompson: Mikey and I had the chance to go to [the 2016] Tales of the Cocktail [the world's premier cocktail festival, held annually in New Orleans] and were both invited to the Jägermeister event. We all have it in our heads that Jäger means frat boys, shots, and a bad hangover, so, naturally, we went to this event thinking it would be a complete shit show, but it was a real eye-opener. This drink is an homage to all the amazing bartenders who showed us how good Jäger can be when used the right way. It inspired us to do something similar.
The bar's happy hour also includes a weekly punch ($8), available daily from 4 to 7 p.m., along with half-priced draft beers, house wines, and select cocktails. Also available for a discounted price during those hours is the Dealers' Choice, which lets guests choose the glassware, base spirit, and flavor profile for a custom cocktail.
The Local Craft Food & Drink
150 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables; 305-648-5687; thelocal150.com.