John Lermayer is one of bartending's elite — a world-class drink slinger known the world over for his style, his concoctions, and his bon vivant lifestyle. So it was no surprise that when he (along with dream-team partners restaurateur David Martinez and Blackbird Ordinary's Dan Binkiewicz) opened his first bar, it would offer superlative libations. What makes Sweet Liberty so good is its casual setting. Here, no hipsters look down on you because you don't know the latest small-batch whiskey, and no brusque waitresses demand $35 for a cocktail. Instead, you get solid drinks and food with no pretenses. Of course, Lermayer and his merry band of bartenders serve some unique cocktails, such as the Beast of Bourbon — a dark, potent potable made with Jim Beam, spiced rum, coffee, and spices ($13) — and the simply named Rum Drink, with rum, lime, sugar, and Campari. But if you order a beer and a shot, you're good too (remember the no-pretense rule). If you want to up your drink IQ, reserve a bartender's table experience where, for a maximum of four people, you'll sit at a special table behind the bar and be served a myriad of food and cocktails for one blissful hour. The simply decorated bar is a mix of Americana and Miami — the better to see the standout focal point, a pink neon sign urging you to "pursue happiness." After a few cocktails at Sweet Liberty, that's a goal easily achieved.
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