Old Tom's Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Old Tom's Sports Bar

With its carnival explosion of cultures and nonstop hustle, Miami sometimes seems like the busiest place in the universe — and also a long way from America. But drive a few miles out to the burbs, and it's a different story on both counts. Take a detour to Miami Springs, for instance. Bathed in the light of more than a dozen flat-screen TV sets, your butt comfy on the padded booths inside Tom's NFL American Sports Bar & Grill, you'll begin to feel like the western reaches of Miami-Dade are just about the best place to drink away an evening. For more than 25 years, this true-and-blue sports bar just steps from Miami International Airport has been serving people flying through town and locals who like a special on their prime rib and a cheap, cool one to wash it all down. Kick back and lick that wing sauce off your fingers while you suck down a Bud and watch some football, because you're in America, dammit, the land of the free.

Readers' choice: Finka Table & Tap

Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company
Seth Browarnik / WorldRedEye.com

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.

Readers' choice: The Broken Shaker

When it took over the former White Room space last year, 1306 also rose from the ashes of beloved venue Grand Central. Brad Knoefler, Aramis Lorie, and Brian Basti, who were all involved with the midsize venue, opened a space that couldn't be any more different from the club they'd closed last September. Instead of an expansive venue, 1306 is small and intimate. In fact, the bar is two venues in one. The event space is located in the outdoor area, and it's perfect for private events or small concerts. The bar takes up the smaller indoor space, with the only indication of its existence being the illuminated neon sign reading, "Bar." With the low lighting and background music playing softly enough that it allows people to have a conversation, 1306's bar has become a favorite among those looking for a late-night cocktail in a not-so-chaotic setting. Given a drink menu by former Broken Shaker alum C. Virginia King, you better believe the libations are legit. Try the Daisy de Lolita ($15), with Ilegal Mezcal reposado, Yellow Chartreuse, lime, and mint. It goes down like a grownup version of a margarita.

Readers' choice: Wood Tavern

Bougainvillea's Old Florida Tavern
Photo by Jessica Gibbs

While the northern part of the county is under an elaborate craft-cocktail spell, the southern half is perfectly content to down unfussy drinks at reasonable prices. For 16 years, Bougainvillea's Old Florida Tavern has delivered exactly that. Built in a 1940s Florida cottage, Bougie's has became a beloved local watering hole for the nearby University of Miami crowd, as well as the young-adult set looking for something a bit more authentic than the bar at T.G.I. Friday's. That makes the crowd gathered here friendlier than most places in Miami. Mix that with a healthy dose of live music — reggae Thursday and local bands Friday and Saturday — and it's the perfect bar where you can let loose without having to worry whether your scene cred will take a beating. And forget about ordering a fancy drink here. Instead, go for a Red Stripe ($4) or a well drink, and enjoy the escape. For the fairer sex, drinks are free Wednesday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Readers' choice: Bougainvillea's Old Florida Tavern

Lou's Beer Garden
George Martinez

Your name probably isn't Lou, but whenever you visit this beer garden, it has a way of making you feel like it belongs to you anyway. Tucked away a block off North Beach's main strip, Lou's Beer Garden is a cozy little enclave beloved by locals and complete with a backyard-size swimming pool. It boasts a great patio vibe and is perfect for cooling off after a day at the beach or catching up with friends in the area. You'll get your choice of a wide selection of craft beers (many for around $10) or Lou's special craft cocktails. Meanwhile, the kitchen kicks out refined takes on comfort foods such as thin-crust pizzas (starting at $11) and a gourmet burger for $16. If it's a particularly nice night, you can enjoy it all while listening to the poolside palms rustling in the breeze — which can be a welcome change from the uhntz-uhntz beats and drunken tourist cackles that soundtrack many poolside hangouts to the south. You'll be sure to feel, well, right at home.

Readers' choice: The Anderson

Broken Shaker
Karli Evans

A humble hostel might be the last place you'd expect to find Miami's most inventive bar. But from the beginning, the Broken Shaker, helmed by Bar Lab's Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, has defied all expectations. What started as a pop-up bar in 2012 in a quiet Indian Creek Drive hotel has become a beloved creator of incredible libations celebrated by clientele and critics alike. In fact, for two years in a row, the Broken Shaker was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program. And in 2015, the Shaker was named Best American Hotel Bar at Tales of the Cocktail's Spirited Awards. Perhaps that's why when the Freehand hostel opened a Chicago outpost, the Broken Shaker tagged along. (A third Shaker location is planned for Los Angeles thanks to another Freehand in the works on the West Coast.) Still, it will be hard to match the idyllic Miami Beach poolside setting with mismatched patio furniture, uneven brick pavers, and twinkling lights. And, yes, the drinks, which constantly change according to the season and whatever local ingredients are fresh, make the Broken Shaker worthy of repeat visits if only to figure out what it'll come up with next.

Readers' choice: The Broken Shaker

Round Table Sports Bar & Lounge

When you finally find this windowless North Miami castle swollen with cheap beer and booze, Round Table Sportsbar & Lounge will make you feel like Indiana Jones unearthing the Holy Grail of dives. The exterior is gray and stately, and the roof even features a battlement detail. But once inside, you'll feel like you've stepped into another time and place. And you won't want to leave. Like every smoky watering hole, this place has games to distract you and beer that is cheaper than bottled water to keep you dehydrated. There's the requisite pool table and a fantastic tabletop shuffleboard that will hypnotize the competitive drunks in your group. While other classic dives like Fox's and Magnum have shuttered their doors forever, Round Table keeps Miami grounded and guzzling cheap beer like a good Southern city should.

Mac's Club Deuce
Photo courtesy of Mac's Club Deuce

Mac Klein is dead. But Mac's Club Deuce will never die. The iconic 101-year-old owner of the Deuce passed away this year, but his bar — as confirmed by his wife Mary — has no plans of shutting its doors. For decades, Mac's Club Deuce, which Klein owned and operated for 51 years, has been the place to escape the artificial glamour of South Beach. There's no VIP section in the Deuce. Inside, everyone is equal. And even though celebrities often sat at Mac's curved bar, they were treated no differently from the iguana-swinging cross-dressers who sat next to them. (Just to clarify: There really is a Deuce story infamous among regulars where a cross-dresser threw an iguana across the bar. The creature survived.) Every loyal patron knew Klein wouldn't be around forever, but his passing still sent tremors through the dive-bar-loving worldwide. Thankfully, we can take comfort in knowing that his bar is here to stay, and through it, Mac will achieve the immortality he rightfully deserves.

Better Days
Photo courtesy of Better Days

In some other parts of Miami, Better Days might not be that big a secret. But in Brickell, surrounded by glitzy towers and sumptuous nightlife options, Better Days flies under the radar, melting inconspicuously into the bourgie 500 Brickell Building. Part thrift store and part bar, Better Days came to Miami's financial district with the idea of giving the area a different sort of bar, a place where one could hide from the suit-and-tie finance bros who loudly shout about the stock market between sips of $30 martinis. And it has done just that. Better Days' interior is vintage and cozy, more like the living room of a very cool grandpa than anything else. Free popcorn is offered to patrons who enjoy tasty cocktails from a seasonal menu (which run about $10, give or take a couple of bucks). And after a few drinks, you can shop at the Dead Flamingo, a thrift store that shares space with Better Days.

The Anderson
The Anderson

When Bar Lab's Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi announced they were taking over the old Magnum Lounge — a retro New York-style piano bar — everyone naturally assumed the old, beloved space would serve some good cocktails. After all, Orta and Zvi are the masterminds behind the Broken Shaker, the bar that single-handedly put Miami Beach's cocktail scene on the world map. But what could the Bar Lab partners do to make a unique mark on the Anderson? Their answer was to seek inspiration from the '80s, a time when people enjoyed libations with names like WooWoo, Sex on the Beach, and Kamikaze. In the hands of Orta and Zvi (and using fresh juices, quality spirits, and handmade bitters), these drinks have been transformed into beautiful creations, much like Molly Ringwald in a John Hughes movie. The Like a Virgin ($11) is a sophisticated take on a Cosmopolitan, the drink made famous on HBO's Sex and the City, and the Let's Dance ($14) flips a dirty martini on its side with a hint of truffle and caper berries. But it's the Under Pressure ($12) that might just win your heart. Made with green-apple-infused vodka and Dolin Blanc vermouth, it's a tart and crisp tribute to the Decade of Me with just the right touch of restraint.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®