Before Set opened in 2007, ultra-lounges such as Mynt and Mokai were popping up everywhere, aiming to taking over the Beach's — and the Opium Group's — high-end clientele. So what did these mega-club wizards do? They created a monstrous lounge with minimal dance-floor space but plenty of couches for VIPs looking to consume copious amounts of liquor. It's a place full of contradictions that has us in a constant love/hate relationship with the venue. We hate it because it's more difficult to get through Set's doors than it is to get into the Jonas Brothers' pants, and because drink prices ($12 for a standard well vodka and mix) make us wish Bernie Madoff had persuaded brothers Eric and Francis Milon and Roman Jones to invest in his Ponzi scheme. But we love it because there is never a shortage of superstar DJs taking over the decks; among those who have performed here are Benny Benassi, Fedde Le Grand, and Miguel Migs. And it's so luxuriously decorated you feel like the excess of wealth might rub off on you. In other words, we love to criticize, but we are secretly envious every time we aren't taking part in the fun.

Louis Bar-Lounge

As the Opium Group expanded to national locales in New York and Las Vegas, the last thing we expected was a new addition to its Miami Beach portfolio. But 2008 brought exactly that with the introduction of Louis at the Gansevoort South Hotel. And while most beach hotel lounges are slickly integrated into the lobby or pool, Louis takes guests completely out of the Gansevoort to a place where 18th-century French aristocracy meets contemporary urban hipster. And it's topped off with a dwarf in full Napoleon regalia walking around the space. It's dark and cavernous, with touches of hot pink and regal wallpaper. The door policy is just as hollow as its sister clubs, but for some reason the payoff seems greater when you gain access. Yes, everyone is gorgeous, and bottle service will get you noticed, but if you're content with hanging out at one of the two expansive bars or cheering on whatever DJ is spinning, your pathetic normalcy is quickly forgotten.

We could have gone the obvious route and chosen a locale in the Park West district, but where's the fun in that? In fact, for years there has been an (often-illegal) after-hours scene happening right under the city's nose. Though the Wynwood Art District enjoys plenty of crowds during its Second Saturday gallery walk and Art Basel, 90 percent of the time, it's an empty urban wasteland — a perfect setting for promoters looking to throw a party. Underground acts such as Audiofly, Steve Lawler, and Matthew Dear have performed at nondescript warehouses in the area. Totally cool and legal places such as Soho Studios, Charcoal Studio, and Awarehouse have sponsored shows that have lasted until noon the following day. Unfortunately, there is nothing scheduled, but staying in the loop guarantees you'll hear about the next after-hours party.

The Vagabond

Hipsters love irony. But don't call the Sweat Records and ¿Que Pasa M.I.A.? crews responsible for this Thursday-night fiesta hipsters. That's totally not what they're trying to attract. They're more interested in spicing the event with scrumptiously dirty 305 flavor and enticing those who enjoy an anti-South Beach party. They do very uncool quince-themed nights featuing grilled pan con lechón. And what could be nerdier than dressing grown men in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumes? Projecting original Nintendo games on a large screen for patrons to play? Or maybe cranking out old-school tunes that range from 2 Live Crew to the Buzzcocks? But it's not like there's Pabst Blue Ribbon (the official drink of the stylistically unwashed) on special during this particular night — just one-dollar Colt tallboys, seven-dollar gin 'n' juice, and seven-buck Dirty Shake combos (a tall boy and a shot of Jäger).

So if the organizers are not trying to allure hipsters, why does this undeniably fun, nostalgia-hawking, ultimately sarcastic shindig at the Vagabond draw them like coke on a key every week?

Uh, we're not sure.

But it's kind of ironic, doncha think?

LIV
Courtesy of LIV

So you secured a smoking-hot date for the evening and you want to be like Bruce Wayne taking out a Russian ballerina. Flash your credit card at the nearest exotic car rental, select that gunmetal-gray Lambo, pick up your honey, and head to LIV at the Fontainebleau. Find the VIP host and request one of the six skyboxes suspended over the main dance floor. High above the thumping, bumping party, you and your date will be completely isolated from all the regular club denizens battling each other to get to the bar, where they will fork over $20 a drink. You, on the other hand, will be balling outrageous, ordering up bottles of Santana champagne and getting your date so tipsy she will give an impromptu lap dance. But try to contain your friskiness, lest you want to get thrown out by security for conducting unsanctioned acts in the skybox. LIV is open Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Best Nightclub to Die in the Past 12 Months

Studio A

M.I.A., Justice, Simian Mobile Disco, Girl Talk, Bonde Do Rolê, Chromeo, Moby, Cat Power, and many others graced its stage. It hosted a slew of infamous weekly parties, including Revolver, Plastik Fantastik, SceneWolf, and Misfit. It was the city's only rock 'n' roll nightclub and its only midsize venue. Nothing hurt us more than having to say bye to Studio A in 2008. And to rub salt in the wound, Studio A's sister club, Studio B in Brooklyn, continues to thrive and book acts we only wish would stop by Miami.

A few weeks before the demise of Studio A, British electroclash quartet Ladytron kicked off its North American tour in this downtown venue. News of Studio A's closing was already public knowledge, making the night bittersweet. Ladytron put on an unforgettable show to a packed space, complete with walls of pulsating lights that made almost everyone present want to prevent the closing. We still can't decide which song was a more fitting farewell for Studio A — "Destroy Everything You Touch" or "Seventeen."

Splitsville

There are two kinds of acceptable sports bars. One is the dive: a hardscrabble, hole-in-the-wall with cheap drinks, bad neon, and a decidedly partisan clientele; it's the kind of place where you'd be stupid to wear the visiting team's jersey. The other kind is the upscale sports bar, which, to qualify, must be truly upscale, and thus may not even call itself a sports bar. By upscale, we mean state-of-the-art flat-screen TV sets with 1020 dpi and at least 42-inch monitors, and not a bad line of sight in the joint. We mean food that comes from an actual chef, not a glorified line cook with two felony charges. And the cuisine doesn't have to be wings and burgers only — it might even be sushi. Why not, right? In terms of professional sports, we do root for two kinds of fish here. Upscale also means multiple, fully stocked bars. Five is a good number; one can never have too many bars. And let's put leather club chairs around the bars, and gigantic leather booths along the walls — you know, the kind where you wouldn't think twice about lying down to sleep after paying six bucks for an imported bottle of beer. It's also nice to have something else to do if, say — and we're just being hypothetical here — your team was getting blown out by the Atlanta Hawks by 25 points in the seventh game of the most boring playoff series you've ever witnessed, something fun and distracting like bowling. Yes, it would be nice to turn your back on Zaza Pachulia's gloating face and go bowling. They could call the place "Splitsville."

On the road to equality, it's important to stop at fabulous dance clubs. All of that droppin'-it-like-it's-hot can only be good for morale. And sure, the Beach is still the best place for stylish gay boys and their stylish gay martinis. But for a grittier, more authentically Miami experience, leave your fancy clothes behind (someone will spill on them) and head to this sprawling, smoky drag performance club-meets-Cubana salsa disco. The warehouse-style venue is full of hip-shaking, mostly Spanish-speaking men and a generally intimate posse of women from the neighborhood. On Drag Wars Thursdays — a campy, cabaret-style show — gay and straight folks alike gather for a beer and a laugh. Parking is a breeze in the less-than-bustling part of town off Coral Way, and there's no cover before 11:30 p.m. Afterward, it's five to ten bucks.

Point Lounge & Package Store

It's well documented that people from Milwaukee and other Midwestern locales enjoy an escape to Miami. Less known, though, is that Miamians sometimes want a taste of the laid-back, unpretentious, and inexpensive Milwaukee-esque lifestyle. But we don't really wanna, you know, buy a plane ticket. Thank God for the Point Lounge, which is the Midwest encapsulated into tavern form. The price for domestic beers hovers around $3.50, the jukebox hasn't been updated since the Reagan era, and the bartenders' usual cantankerousness-to-chirpiness ratio is approximately 28:1. At the pool table, don't hold your cue like a pussy, but do use the women's bathroom — the men's looks like Chernobyl.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®