Some folks like their drag queens on the tame side, expertly tucked and quaffed, and ready to smile through Katy Perry lyrics. But for the most part, that ain't Miami's style. This city's got flavor — a lot of Latin flavor, in fact — and the queens at Azucar serve it in abundance. Formerly called Club Sugar, Azucar offers a lethal dose of salsa, disco, and diva flair, plus a dash of dirty that suits this filthy town just right. Every Thursday through Sunday, the club's performers bust out song numbers and skits, all while keeping the energy at 11. There's everything, including Latina pageant gals lipping ballads and girls getting weird to Gaga. For the fiercest performances, however, Thursday night's Drag Wars is a bitch battle not to be missed. Dolls from all backgrounds compete for the weekly $100 prize and a chance at the semifinals down the road. At Azucar, you can surround the floor and they'll snatch your dollars like the hungry human claw machines they are. Sure, the show doesn't kick off till 2 a.m., but the crowd comes late and the cover stays below $10, so suck down a vodka Red Bull and get with it.

Draw up a list of the many possible places that a hub for newborn creatives might be tucked in Miami-Dade, and a cluster of warehouses stuck behind an Outback Steakhouse in Kendall would presumably be pretty close to the bottom. But get over the odd location and there's no denying the truth: Artistic Vibes brims with life and burbles with creative juices. Founded in 2010, the artist collective in a renovated warehouse gives a platform to a variety of performance art productions, from live music and poetry to stand-up comedy and theater. All genres converge every Thursday night for the most popular event, Open Mic, hosted by comedian Xander Rey and poet Quills Rodriguez. It wouldn't be a true open mike without a few rookies floundering or even some industry veterans filling the room with crushing awkwardness, but Artistic Vibes features some damn good performers who more than balance it out. Well-known local comedians Eric DaSilva and John Vargas and poet/musician Narciso Hilario Montas are just a few of the reliably great acts who frequent the stage. Artistic Vibes' atmosphere is homey and fun, a unique combination amid the typical stiff gallery or dark bar performance backdrop. Audience members can grab beer, popcorn, and other refreshments from the cash bar and settle into a sofa to watch the show. It's kind of like being in a dirty-humored, pothead-friendly version of your grandparents' living room. The AV family has an infectious enthusiasm for what they do, and the result is a well-organized but natural open mike that doesn't take itself too seriously. Best of all, cover is just $5 for nonperformers.

Gramps
Photo by Alex Markow

Karaoke walks a fine line between fun and sad. We've all seen that 40-something dude croon Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" three times a night or that dangerously drunk college girl cry-sing Adele's "Someone Like You." Enough is enough, karaoke mood killers. If you want tears with your tunes, head down to the basement of an Irish pub and jam your heavy hearts out. If you want to have a good time and unleash your inner rock star, sign up for Let's Sang! Described as "karaoke for nerds and music lovers," Let's Sang! was founded by Los Angeles native and Miami-based artist Oly Vargas. It began as a mobile karaoke event but recently found a home at Gramps the last Thursday of every month. There's never a cover, and from 8 p.m. to midnight, divas and karaoke virgins alike can choose from customized song lists that are filled with obscure numbers and posted online before each gathering. The pared-down playlists not only cut wait time but also eliminate those massive, sticky-paged songbooks. Before you rage at the loss of those Top 40 tracks, you can still request songs on Let's Sang!'s Facebook page before events. The selection is always satisfying and fresh, filled with everything from Peggy Lee, the Pixies, and Prince to Stevie Wonder, the Smiths, and Snoop Dogg. The most unique and fun aspect is the spontaneity. The event mixes up the playlist for holidays and special occasions and features interesting guest hosts, including musician Otto Von Schirach, artist Hugo Montoya, and beloved bearded drag queens Juleisy y Karla. Artist Liz Ferrer hosted the most recent ¡En Español!, with Spanish covers of karaoke favorites. Above all, Vargas' enthusiasm turns karaoke, which can often become a tone-deaf mess in lesser hands, into something truly special.

E11even Miami
Photo by Adinayev

If you had asked us last year what every Miami nightlife addict's bucket list should include, we would've responded with a till-morning rager at Club Space followed by a quick visit to Goldrush — a combination that represented the very best in Miami late-night debauchery. But then Goldrush closed in 2013, and from its T&A ashes rose E11even Miami — which touts itself more as a nightclub and cabaret than a strip club, yet it still features women dancing in all states of undress for your dollar bills. What E11even has really revolutionized is the VIP experience. At this strip, uh, cabaret there are 32 "conversation lounges" that run $450 for a half-hour and $750 per hour and include the personal company of a lithe young woman. But true ballers will want to experience the larger rooms, which feature private entrances, high-end appointments, giant TV screens, mirrored ceilings, and, of course, plenty of entertainment. The rooms don't come cheap, though, going for $1,500 to $5,000 a pop. But there are plenty of worse ways to spend your time or money. Live a little at this 24/7 party playground.

Point Lounge & Package Store

The dusk of the day of the classic jukebox is upon us. Bars throughout Miami-Dade and the wider world are quickly becoming infected with a new type of technology that purports to be some sort of evolution: the digital jukebox. Those internet-connected machines can call up just about any song at will, but they become a dystopian curse when you realize any drunkard with money can cue up the entire discography of Ace of Base or Nickelback if he so wishes. That's not a jukebox. It's musical anarchy. Nothing at Point Lounge looks like it's been updated in about a decade or two, and the jukebox setup, thankfully, is no exception. No touchscreen here. It's filled with a bunch of albums and random mix CDs that were put together by someone who seems like he's still really proud of his college radio show. In other words: You'll never have to worry about walking in and seeing drunk tourists dancing to Miley Cyrus.

The Irish Times Pub & Eatery
George Martinez

For decades, University of Miami students have been trying to dupe the bouncers at this Celtic-themed tavern within walking distance of campus. Yet no matter how closely they resemble their older cousin's expired driver's license photo, the bouncer, propped on his stool outside the double doors, inevitably refuses to let them in. Poor underage drinkers. They're missing out on a beacon for Dade's partygoers looking to keep the night from ending at a 5 a.m. liquor license establishment. But it's not just the postmidnight crowd that has kept the Irish Times clicking on a busy South Miami corner. A hearty menu with everything from sliders to mac 'n' cheese and more traditional fare like bangers 'n' mash, fish 'n' chips and shepherd's pie ensures an all-hours crowd. The double doors in front are left open rain or shine, and the friendly staff is welcoming whether you order a pint of Guinness before noon or are stopping by on your commute home for a game of pool. Assuming, of course, you're not a wayward freshman slurring the lyrics to Katy Perry's latest hit. You should probably just head back to the dorms.

When a bar's front windows are plastered with Bud heavy promo posters and three American flags, you pretty much know what to expect inside. And yes, porn mustaches and bad dye jobs abound inside the Nite Cap Lounge, which doesn't serve snacks but is stocked with plenty of glorious cheese. Because the Cap is technically a sports bar, practically every square inch of its guts are covered in Dolphins regalia. But most people don't drive up to North Miami Beach to stare at the screens; they go for the other patrons. Though it looks like the old-timers know one another better than they know their own families, there's not even a bit of cliquishness. It's a true neighborhood bar where the regular drinkers prioritize making guests feel at home and welcome to come back. (And hey, maybe that's why there are so many regulars in the first place.) Turn your Dale Earnhardt hat backward, pull up a barstool, and order that $1.50 Bud heavy in a plastic mug. Miami might be our nation's most international city, but Nite Cap is as all-American as it gets.

Kill Your Idol

A statue of Bruce Lee's karate-ripped body overlooks the bar. A World War II Hindenburg hub floats from the ceiling. An astronaut in a space suit hangs next to a dangling chandelier made of glass bottles. A bearded dude wearing an Hoy Polloy T-shirt scores on the Playboy pinball machine, and chicks in high-waisted black shorts show off their perfectly toned abs as they chug glass after glass of free vodka soda during ladies' night on Wednesdays. Killer riffs and catchy beats from Jean Jacket and other local indie acts captivate the crowd, and a DJ gets the party started and asses shaking with some serious electro-pop dance tunes. There are regular karaoke nights, the long-running gay party night Glitter Box Mondays, and a good selection of craft beers and well-mixed cocktails. That whole eclectic-meets-hipster vibe that Kill Your Idol's got going is what makes it a diamond in the rough of uhntz-uhntz powerhouses dominating SoBe's drinking scene.

Mike's at Venetia
Photo courtesy of Mike's at Venetia

In the past few years, Miami's drinking dens have started catching up with foodie meccas like New York and Chicago by offering increasingly complex craft cocktails — which, don't get us wrong, is a great trend. You won't hear us complaining about delicious concoctions made with fresh ingredients and top-shelf liquor. But sometimes our wallets are asking for a bit of a respite. Face it — there are only so many $14 old-fashioneds we can drink without dipping into our rent money. That's why we're forever grateful that Mike's at Venetia is still thriving downtown. The long-standing watering hole was once the hangout of Miami Herald staffers, whose bayfront headquarters were next door. Despite the paper's departure for Doral, the sticky bartop, outdoor poolside tables, and ornery barflies remain. Drinks are cheap — we're talking $6 for a Jack and Coke. To top it off, Mike's features a Monday-through-Friday happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., which includes half-off select appetizers and $1 off already well-priced drinks. Best of all, you can down those budget drinks in a cozy den with sweeping views of Biscayne Bay while shooting pool. Next time you're tired of getting all gussied up just to get a damn drink, take the elevator up to Mike's.

Last Chance Bar & Package

Warning: It's a ten-hour walk before the next booze shack and another two straight days of stumbling to Key West. Maybe you're a drunkard without a designated driver. Or you're too broke to buy a ride in a biker's sidecar. Or you just smoked the last doobie and there isn't enough grass at the bottom of your duffle bag to pay for passage aboard a wealthy Parrothead's pleasure yacht. Whatever the reason why you've found yourself stranded, thirsty, and wandering along South Dixie Highway where it suddenly narrows into a two-lane asphalt strip that skips from tiny island to tiny island before finally reaching the southernmost point in the continental United States, this is your Last Chance, as the saloon's smiley-faced sign jeers, to get buzzed off $2.25 draught beers, play some shuffleboard, and use "inside toilets."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®