Tiki drinks are Esotico's specialty.
Photo courtesy of Esotico Miami
Tiki drinks are Esotico's specialty.

Miami is a tropical paradise, a perfect backdrop for sipping rum drinks garnished with tiny paper umbrellas and fuzzy flamingos fashioned from chenille. There's only one maddening problem: Miami is sorely underpopulated with places to get a great tiki cocktail. It's a sad state of affairs when places like Chicago, New York, and even Goose Bay in Canada have more tiki bars than Miami. Thankfully, barman Daniele Dalla Pola, Graziano Sbroggio, and the Graspa Group opened Esotico. Decorated with palm trees, bamboo, and pink neon, Esotico is the bar Miami needs. Here you'll find all manner of cocktails — like the "Nu Mai Tai," a take on the classic Trader Vic's drink ($23 with a tiki mug you can take home) and the "Sexy Colada" ($12), a classic colada spiced up with a hint of ginger. If nothing else, these pandemic times entitle you to order the "Volcano Bowl" ($40), made with several rums and juices that serves up to three people, and drink it all yourself with absolutely no judgment (provided you don't drive afterward). Be sure to check out Esotico's line of limited-edition tiki mugs — including an awesome zombie Elvis. Open daily.

Bob's Your Uncle
Bob's Your Uncle

Recent arrival Bob's Your Uncle, like many Miami Beach denizens, hails from New York City, where its older sibling originated in 2015. But don't let this hole-in-the-wall's import status deter you from partaking of its quirky, Normandy Isle neighborhood vibe. The bar is festooned with framed images of Bobs past and present, from Hope to De Niro to Sponge. The cocktails are cheap and well made – the menu is divided into spritzes ($9), mules ($10), and cocktails ($11). You can get a Genesee Cream Ale or a Jell-O shot for $3. (When's the last time you went to a bar that served Jell-O shots? The correct answer is "too long ago" but that's about to change, isn't it?) Keep the party going with a burger from Cheeseburger Baby, which has popped up in the kitchen. It's just like the Cheers bar, only everybody only knows one name, and that name is Bob. Open 3 p.m. to 3 p.m. (or curfew) daily.

Rooftop @ 1WLO
Photo courtesy of Rooftop

Ride the elevator to the top of the One West Las Olas building in downtown Fort Lauderdale and you'll find a swanky outdoor patio, perfect for cocktailing. Though its seventh-floor location doesn't qualify for skyscraper status, you'll still have a bird's-eye view of the lights of Las Olas and the Middle River. If stunning views aren't your thing, just take in the boxwood trees as you relax on plush chairs or huddle around a fire pit on one of those cold South Florida nights when the temps plunge below 65 degrees. Sip cocktails ($14) like the "Zaddy" (rum, apple, thyme, and pineapple) or the "Violet Sky" (vodka, violet liqueuer, blackberry, and sage) and watch the sun set. The Rooftop takes reservations for parties of six or fewer, so you're guaranteed a seat even though the lounge has reduced its capacity. Open Thursday through Sunday.

After a long day of shopping at Dior and Gucci, you're going to need to fortify yourself with a glass of wine before peeking at your credit-card statement. Abaco Wines may look like a high-end wine shop, but what you may not know is that it also sells its bounty by the glass. This gorgeous, minimalist store is stocked with thousands of bottles and offers wines by the glass, cheese plates, and tastings. The staff is knowledgeable, so it's almost certain you'll find a new favorite. Try something new — an Italian red, say, with a smoky finish that speaks of the volcanic ash that fertilizes the soil in which the grapes are grown, or a chardonnay from France. Take home a bottle (or enjoy it at Abaco for a modest corkage fee). Open daily.

Originally sited in Miami Shores, LUCIO relocated to a new shopping plaza just south of El Portal in 2019. Opening in both small villages alone would make this family-owned boutique spot pioneering. But the wines, chosen by namesake Chef Lucio Bueno, is what truly makes the business outstanding. He looks for small natural, organic, and family producers, so you're likely to find wines from Chile's ¡No es Pituko! to Vienna's Zum Martin Sepp. Thanks to COVID, the bottles are now all racked at the front, and only the 19-year-old resident cat gets to roam the store. Regardless, you'll leave with vintages that only require you remove your mask to savor.

The Citadel
Photo by Daniella Mía

Take in the city's lesser-known sights atop the Citadel, located in the heart of Little Haiti. Equipped with ample socially distanced seating and umbrellas to curb the heat, this sprawling patio is Miami's best rooftop bar. The current menu is curated by Zabdi Cobon of the Sylvester bar and features cocktails like the "Lychee With Me," made with vodka, sake, St-Germain, cucumber, lemon, and bitters. The venue also houses an eclectic food hall where patrons can enjoy pizza from Ash! Pizza Parlor, barbecue from Society BBQ, and burgers from USBS. Gone are the days of jostling through a crowded bar, so make sure to secure a reservation online well in advance as space is limited. Happy hour runs Wednesday to Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m.

Best Bar Food

Bar food usually consists of rubbery mozzarella sticks, limp fries, and chicken wings. But it doesn't have to be that way. Reunion, tucked inside a strip mall across from a smoothie joint, has the food you need for an elevated bar experience. Wagyu sliders are topped with rich Manchego and sautéed onions ($15); saganaki is doused with brandy and set aflame ($13); and a flatbread is topped with tender short rib and shiitake mushrooms ($16). The result: familiar bites and snacks made with elevated ingredients that mark the difference between forgettable and memorable. Reunion also makes a fantastic martini and offers a good list of wines by the glass — because your bar food needs a liquid companion. Open daily.

Best Cocktails
Sala'o Cuban Bar & Pescadería

This Hemingway-themed restaurant has a fine seafood-centric menu, but it's the cocktails that make this Calle Ocho secret a "must." Cocktail powerhouses Ben Potts and Gui Jaroschy, under their Halcyon Beverages brand, have created a cocktail menu that pays tribute to the Cuba of bygone days — the one Hemingway loved so much. The iconic author was famed for being the inspiration for the Hemingway daiquiri, created by Constantino Ribailagua at the El Floridita in Havana in the 1920s. Here, the drink is given new life as the Hemingway #4 ($13). Do not miss Salao's gin-and-tonic cart, from which the bartender will make you a gin and tonic tableside — say, the "Varadero," with Hendrick's gin, Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water, lemon, olive, and fresh rosemary; or the "Ancon," with Hendrick's Orbium gin, Fever-Tree elderflower tonic water, dried lime, cucumber, and roses ($15 each). At Sala'o the simple gin and tonic becomes liquid performance art.

Best Mojito
Photo by Adam Delgiudice

You might think it's the retro-Cuban décor and the authentic cantinero-style bartenders that make the mojito at Little Havana's Cafe La Trova the most refreshing mojito in Miami. It's a traditional mojito — made simply with white rum, sugar, lime, soda, and mint — and one that transports the imbiber to an instant tropical state of mind. See, it's not just the surface stuff. Each and every mojito here is made using unimpeachable cantinero technique — meaning with care, but also passion, a little flair, and a whole lot of intention. Spearheaded by bartender Julio Cabrera and recently ranked No. 70 on Drinks International's 50 Best Bars list, Cafe La Trova offers this mojito for $7 during its happy hour, from 4 to 7 p.m. daily.

Smith & Wollensky
Courtesy of Smith & Wollensky

"Best Aperol Spritz" is a new category for 2020, and it's one we felt was appropriate for the Miami lifestyle. A light and refreshing drink, the spritz is great for brunching, lunching, boating, or even just an afternoon of day drinking. This Italian aperitif is best enjoyed outdoors on a sunny day, which happens to be even more convenient for the world we currently live in. With all those factors considered, Smith & Wollensky is the move. It can be tricky creating the perfect ratio of bitter Aperol to high-quality Italian prosecco, then topping it off with club soda and a slice of fresh orange. If there's too much soda, the drink tastes watered-down and doesn't last. Smith & Wollensky uses LaLuca prosecco to create a well-balanced spritz for $17. With the restaurant's coveted location in South Pointe Park, dining here lends itself to fun people-watching with a backdrop of cruise ships coming in and out of port. If you squint a little while taking in the view of the rocky shoreline against the cerulean water, it's almost as if you're on the Amalfi Coast.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®