Best Place to Taste Wine 2009 | Cavas Wine Tasting Room | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Like a well-aged Brunello, Cavas Wine Tasting Room hits the (visual) palate with a complex burst of impressions. The décor lands first. Casual leather sofas rest near floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the masses wandering happily along Española Way. Chic, tall black tables with tiny candles fill the floor, and hundreds of wine bottles, attractively lit with soft bulbs, line the walls. But just when you think you've wandered into another casual wine bar, your eyes catch... the machines. Along each wall, 70 or 80 uncorked bottles of wine nestle inside the stainless-steel contraptions with glowing red LED lights and thin spouts, like espresso makers. Not only is the ambiance lovely, but also the devices are key to Cavas's take on the winetasting experience. Here's how it works: You buy a plastic card, loaded with however much you'd like to spend, from the front desk. You swipe the card in the machines, which can dispense one-ounce samples, half-glasses, or full glasses of any bottle on display. Before you know it, you're wandering around like a kid with a charge card at the video arcade, trying one-dollar sips of cool, cheap Australian Chardonnay; nine-dollar ounces of oaky aged French Merlots; and eight-dollar half glasses of crisp Malbec. It's winetasting from the future, homes. And it goes down smooth.

Ninety-six isn't necessarily a cool age. Your diaper has to be changed every few hours, walks through the mall are as tiring as watching young whippersnappers such as that bow-tied punk Larry King yammer on your talking picture box, and Metamucil comes in only so many flavors. But if you're a 96-year-old rock club that snagged the first liquor license in all of Miami-Dade after being frequented by Al Capone, you're pretty kick-ass. Slap on a 96-minute (6 to 7:36 p.m.) Friday happy hour that commemorates your golden-oldie age by offering 96-cent well cocktails ($1.96 for premium booze) with a free appetizer, and you've just upped your status to supremely awesome. Whatever your age, there's reason enough to celebrate with a Pink Lady or a Red Headed Slut.

With truly serious cases of Sunday sickness, there's absolutely no time for an experimental hangover cure. In these situations, the only acceptable remedy is a proven one: the ever-reliable bloody mary. And Clarke's serves the staple right. Their version includes pulpy tomato juice spiked with vodka and seasoned with celery salt, pepper, and fresh horseradish. It's all poured into a tall water glass over a fistful of ice cubes. There's no unnecessary flair or surprise twists or dreaded factory-made mixes. It has just enough bite to blast the sinuses clear and enough body to settle an uneasy stomach. Like Clarke's itself, the drink is a classic idea refined to the essentials. So order another or two more — it's feasible at five bucks to nibble around the huge pimento olive garnish and prep for an Irish-style midday meal. The bloody mary and brunch — Sundays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — are a hug for your ailing gut.

Perhaps you've noticed longer lines to the bathroom at your favorite bar. Or you've seen revelers sneakily turning their bodies into nightclub corners to hide some illicit activity. It's not Miami's newest white-powder renaissance (that we know of). In today's economy, it's hard out here for a pimp — or a ho or a bus driver or a laid-off journalist or just about anybody else who wants to drink the night away but doesn't have $12 for each gin-and-tonic. Eight dollars, which is what a flask full of reasonably good vodka or whiskey should cost you at a liquor store, sounds a hell of a lot more attractive. We're not saying to slip Grandpa's metal Thermos into the pocket of some loose-fitting clothing before going clubbing is the moral thing to do — somebody has to pay those bouncers, after all — but neither is you being asked to fork over an hour's worth of pay for one beverage. At least that's how we justify it to ourselves. If a bouncer catches you making the liquor-into-soda transfer, we never met. And even if all you get is a Sprite, please tip your bartender a buck.

"Is that a real freaking watermelon?" Get ready to answer this question from more than one tourist when you head for D'vine Hookah Lounge. At this Lincoln Road establishment, they don't mess around with conventional hookahs. Order the watermelon special for $35 and you'll get a hookah pipe rammed right down into half a fresh-cut melon, stuffed with premium watermelon-flavored tobacco. If melons aren't your thing, D'vine has more than 60 other premium flavors for $25 a pop — or you can stick to the basic hookah for $18. Add in the best people-watching in South Beach, smack in the middle of Lincoln Road Mall, and you have the recipe for a perfectly legal smoked-out afternoon on the Beach.

Leave it to Guy Fieri — a cook who whips up dishes with names like "Tater Tot Halibut" prepared in a way that "would make your lunch lady proud" — to find escargots served in mushroom caps ($8.95) at a Kendall bar. This is precisely what he did in an episode of his Food Network show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, drawing attention to the little Irish pub known for friendly service, boisterous weekend cover bands, and its Cheers-esque vibe. Other appetizer standouts include fried green tomatoes (the way your mama made them, for $5.95), sexy oysters on the half-shell (six for $7.50, 12 for $10.95), Oriental-style chicken wings (teriyaki-glazed with a side of wasabi, for $7.95), and fried calamari served with melted butter sauce and grated Parmesan cheese ($7.25). Sandwiches are loaded with flank steak ($9.25) and mahi-mahi, which comes charbroiled or blackened ($9.75) or crusted with potato chips ($9.95). And if you find yourself at this bar knowing that bar food ain't your thing, take a look at daily specials that range from surf 'n' turf to St. Louis-style ribs.

All of those residents in the new downtown and midtown condos finally have a cool place to get happy. Every Thursday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Out of the Blue Café, things get a little crazy with some great karaoke action courtesy of the most talented amateur singers in Miami. An excellent time to meet new people, karaoke night at Out of the Blue has the warm feel of a nice neighborhood hangout where unpretentious and eager singers celebrate their favorite hits. So whether you are into hip-hop, Latin, or even country music, the fervent karaoke folks here will nudge you into that blissful, pitch-perfect note.

This is Weezy F-Baby, and in case you ain't heard, I am the greatest rapper alive,

Man, even Michael Phelps can't get into my T-Mobile fab five,

So he didn't get the text message invitation to my birthday soirée this past October 7,

When I took over Mansion and turned it into Cash Money Millionaire heaven,

Hooking up with models and sipping champagne bottles by the dozen,

Broke fellas trying to get in by calling themselves my cousins,

But they can't get in, they can't get in, they can't get in

Not even if they are my goddamn twin,

Cuz I'm so rich I freeze hundred-dollar bills in ice sculptures,

Excuse me, Mr. Bouncer, but please keep out them vultures.

Before the night was over, and when I was far from sober,

My daddy Birdman handed me a briefcase made by Louis Vuitton,

Opened it up, and counted $1 million in stacks,

The greatest present for the rap game's number one don.

Best Party to Disappear in the Past Year

Money Shot

It seems like all the best things in Miami crash and burn in a glorious spectacle. For example, Money Shot, which made its debut in late 2006 at the now-demolished Pawn Shop Lounge as a way to popularize indie hip-hop (or hipster-hop, to be exact). After a few months, it moved to Love Hate Lounge in Miami Beach. Then it went on extended hiatus. Finally it made a grandiose return in 2008 at the Vagabond. And though it never replicated the money-tank days at Pawn Shop, it still was one of the city's best Thursday-night parties. Promoters Jake Jefferson and Xavier Burt launched the night, with Contra, Tom Laroc, and Induce as the resident DJs. There were special guest appearances by artists such as DJ Elle, Spank Rock, Roxy Cottontail, 2 Live Crew, A-Trak, and Klever. Its hasty exit by year's end left us wondering how one of the city's most heralded parties could leave us so suddenly. Here is hoping 2009 might see it rise from the ashes.

When Clear Channel-owned 93.9 FM changed its format to a guilty pleasures station that unironically played Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up," jazz on commercial radio in Miami became a thing of the past. But serious jazz lovers knew they still had WDNA-FM (88.9). While other noncommercial stations devote blocks to the genre, 88.9 is the only FM station that lives and breathes jazz. Tune in and expect to hear the work of masters such as Stan Getz and Miles Davis, and the station's early-afternoon block gives special attention to Latin jazz all-stars such as Tito Puente. In other words: No Kenny G allowed. Excuse the pun, but when you take jazz so seriously that it's practically in your DNA, there's no better station than this one.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®