The Regent Cocktail Club
Photo courtesy of the Regent Cocktail Club

When the Broken Shaker opened in 2011, the craft-cocktail mecca brought a new, much-needed wave of bars to Miami. Venues peddling overpriced, overhyped neon-blue slushy drinks with cheap vodka are a dying breed. And taking its place are savvy, classy, and smart watering holes. If the Broken Shaker began the movement, the Gale Hotel's Regent Cocktail Club is pushing the next step. The 1940s-era décor makes the place seem like a speakeasy in the middle of tourist-ridden South Beach. Dim lights, antiqued furniture, old champagne glasses, and a cocktail menu fit for Frank Sinatra are all part of its perks. Unlike the clichéd fluorescent SoBe slushies, Regent's concoctions make the old new again. Classic drinks include sazeracs, original daiquiris, old-fashioneds, sidecars, French 75s, Manhattans, pisco sours, mai tais, and mint juleps. This type of menu is rare these days, and with some of Miami's finest mixologists — Julio Cabrera, Angelo Viera, and Danny Valdez — at the helm, the experience here is far from SoBe ordinary. In short, the Regent does what every neo-bar in town has been trying to do for the past five years: make the past hip again.

The Hoxton

Blue-and-white-striped linen sofas, white tea-light candles placed atop mahogany tables, and an oversize picture of Sophia Loren hanging behind the stage: The Hoxton definitely lives up to its "urban beach house" philosophy. Yet while the Hoxton's cool, relaxed décor gets a lot of the praise, its savory, aromatic cocktails do all the talking. There's the refreshing Quincy Cooler, made with citrus vodka, cucumber, and mint and topped with soda and fresh lime; the smooth Honey Ryder, featuring fresh lemon juice, blackberries, bourbon, rosemary, and homemade honey syrup; and the Hoxton Lemonade, combining vodka, fresh lemon juice, basil, strawberries, and ginger beer. Priced around $12, each of the handcrafted concoctions is prepared with fresh, locally sourced produce that creates an enticing explosion of flavor.

Let's Make a Daiquiri

Kids today, with their free-range, cruelty-free gourmet cocktails and their macrobiotic arts-and-crafts beer. Pshaw! As if getting buzzed were all about being fancy. Look, when it comes to drinks, all you need is the following: (1) lots of alcohol, (2) some other tasty ingredients to make sure your throat does not burn by drinking lots of alcohol, and (3) something that keeps you cool (a South Florida-specific requirement). Which is exactly what Let's Make a Daiquiri specializes in. Besides the titular multiflavored libations, this place also has one of the tastiest piña coladas you'll ever try. If you can't decide between the two, you can have them mixed. Plus the two Let's Make a Daiquiri locations are smartly situated at Bayside Marketplace and Dolphin Mall, two spots no local over 21 should ever endure while sober. So put your drink snobbery aside, accept the fact that there's a reason tourists love frozen drinks so much, and go make a daiquiri.

Tavern In the Grove

If you want to predict the fun-slash-danger level of an average night at any boozing establishment, simply inspect the floor, walls, and bathroom stalls. Waxed, clean, and pristine? Too tame. Blood-puddled, puke-stained, and shit-slathered? Too extreme. But soaked in suds, papered with NSFW party pics, and covered in a phone book's worth of numbers "for a good time"? Welcome to Tavern in the Grove, the perfect dive bar, where the booze is cheap, the boobs are out, and no one can remember your name. Drafts come in only two sizes: the standard 16-ounce pint and a 36-ounce "wonton soup container." But either way, you won't need anything larger than a $5 bill. Unless it's Monday, when $13 buys all-night, all-you-can-drink light beer. Oh, and a final tip: Don't try calling for a reservation. The Tavern doesn't serve dinner. The stools are always empty. And it's not like this place has a damn phone.

Ted's Hideaway
Photo by Chelsea Olson

In the swanky South of Fifth landscape, there are more $20 martinis, $75 steaks, and $200,000 Bentleys than you can shake a Louis Vuitton bag at. Luckily, for less-than-monied locals, service-industry staffers, and club-weary tourists, there's Ted's — a welcome respite from the sensory overload of luxe elsewhere on the Beach. Although marked by a pink exterior and sprawling purple neon sign, it's surprisingly easy to miss. But once you're inside, it's hard to forget. The smoky, dimly lit interior is a level playing field for boozers. Yacht owners toss back Fireball shots with restaurant bussers. Locals ante up quarters to shoot pool with out-of-towners. Jimmy Choo-shoed hotties hunker down with wheezy, gap-toothed day drinkers. Heat games flash on TV screens. Classic tunes echo from the jukebox. And all while smokin'-hot, unpretentious chicks in fishnets and corsets happily serve Yuengling, Jamo picklebacks, and taquitos. There's no ennui, no affectation, no douchebags allowed. Just good times, stiff drinks, and new friends. It's an easy escape for an hour or two — or ten. Time slips away at this little hideaway.

Sunny Beach Billiards

Neon glow. Ambient buzz. And the crack of 15 balls scattering toward empty pockets. Open till 4 a.m. and tucked into a corner unit on the second floor of a strip mall in swank Sunny Isles Beach, this Collins Avenue pool hall is just a single narrow room full of sunburned hustlers, Russian teens, hot mamis, arcade games, and well-worn pool tables. During the daylight hours, Sunny Beach Billiards certainly doesn't seem to be the sort of place where paychecks are lost. A Black Flag song on the jukebox is a buck. Pitchers of Bud are only $10. And you won't go broke playing the $15-per-hour tables. But as dark settles over the parking lot and midnight drifts past, the hustlers come out, the games go long, the lights grow dim, the drinks get stiff, and the bets get stiffer. So grab your billfold, after-dark shades, and custom two-piece cue in a leather case. But watch you don't get snookered. Cash up. Eight ball down.

Sing Sing Karaoke

What do Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," and Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" have in common? Besides the fact that you regularly embarrass yourself fist-pumping to them in your car while stuck in traffic on the Dolphin, they're three karaoke tunes you can belt out at Sing Sing Karaoke. Inside this Washington Avenue haunt, there's a traditional karaoke bar for those who love being in the limelight to down a $6 shot of signature Liquid Courage, grab the mike, and harmonize to any of the more than 120,000 songs in 13 languages. And for those who'd rather unleash their inner diva behind closed doors, there's another option. Sing Sing Karaoke has 17 private karaoke rooms equipped with couches, cocktail tables, two mikes, sound-activated lights, and a remote-controlled karaoke system (although those spots have to be reserved). Come during happy hour from 5 to 8 p.m., when room rates are half-price and drink specials are available. After happy hour ends, karaoke is also available at the bar for $2 a song (you also get a complimentary song with every drink over $5). At that point, everyone will sound more like Whitney Houston and strangers will become your number one fans.

The Viceroy

For ladies tired of hitting the same dingy spots for boring drink specials, Viceroy Miami has put together quite a glamorous girls' night out. Every Friday, the luxurious Brickell resort inside the Icon Brickell hosts Indulge, an "ultimate ladies' evening" that will leave the fairer sex feeling like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. The festivities begin at the hotel's Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, Eos, a sexy, bold establishment with an innovative wine list and signature cocktails on the 15th floor, where free drinks are served from 8 to 10 p.m. Then the party moves up to the deluxe lounge in the sky, Fifty. The rooftop spot's stunning interior features grained marbles and woods, Japanese woodblock-inspired prints and plants, and salt air and fresh blossoms scenting the high-altitude atmosphere. The sweeping vista gives partygoers an unparalleled perspective of Biscayne Bay and the downtown Miami and Brickell skyline. Ladies can dance under the stars with free entry and 50 percent off drinks till midnight — and end the evening by jumping into the spectacular Asian-inflected pool.

We had heard for months that the weekly drag cabaret show at Solare Coliseum is a must-see, but as single, working alt-weekly types trying to support two kids, we found it difficult to drive to Doral at 1 o'clock in the morning on a Monday. But being lovers of men in fishnets and wigs that reach higher than Marge Simpson's beehive, we phoned the baby-sitter, prepared to call in sick to work the next day, and made the trip. We were not disappointed. Sure, as gringos, we might have understood only half a dozen words all night, but head diva Marytrini and her crew put on a spectacle set to Latin pop songs and ballads whose lyrics we didn't have to understand to appreciate. There were matching costumes, choreography, back-up dancers (of the shirtless male variety, naturally), singing guest stars, and a cavalcade of some of the most polished queens in Miami. Never mind that this is a drag show; few weekly shows of any kind are quite as spectacular, and this one costs only $10 at the door. This is for sure: El Show de Marytrini is the only thing worth the trek to Doral after midnight on a Sunday.

The Vagabond

In a city with few open mikes, and even fewer that are consistently good, Stone Groove is a breath of fresh bohemian air. Tuesdays at 10 p.m. at the Vagabond, some of Miami's finest poets read and recite their works while the weekly MC, Marcus Blake, keeps the artistry flowing across the stage in a steady but powerful stream. The Vagabond puts first-timers and veterans alike in the same spotlight at a venue that's ideally suited for intimate but impactful performances — dark, moody lighting and enough space to seat scores of audience members who tend to be very supportive of those on the mike. Voices of rebellion, of discontent, of sublime exaltation become enriched and emblazoned by the Stone Groove's weekly band, which keeps the funk churning and fills the atmosphere with keen sounds to match the mood of each respective poet. The vibe is low-key yet vibrant, and the ambiance, composed of potent words and smoky air glowing in soft red light, immerses listeners in the moving performances that flow from the microphone. Sure, it breaks the mold of Miami open-mike nights. Maybe that's exactly why it's become so popular.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®