Broken Shaker
Karli Evans

This Miami Beach poolside bar at the Freehand Hotel gets most of its acclaim for its cocktail menu, but don't sleep on its eclectic menu of edible offerings, which feels like a gastronomical trip around the world. Middle Eastern flavors are represented with items like labneh (strained yogurt) served with za'atar and pita, a falafel burger, and shawarma fries. An assortment of Latin selections includes guacamole with tostones or chicharrones, as well as street tacos. Or you can be an all-American and choose the double-patty "Shaker Burger," topped with bacon, Cheddar, onions, pickle, and special sauce. Worldlier carnivores can explore the kimchi fried chicken sandwich or the "Griot & Pickliz" — crisp pork shoulder with a spicy Haitian slaw — while the meat-averse might indulge in an all-vegan oyster mushroom pita packed with tahini sauce, pickled cabbage, cucumbers, and harissa that oozes out of the bread pocket.

Water Lion Wine + Alchemy
Photo courtesy of Water Lion Wine + Alchemy

In search of a sophisticated respite from South Beach? Take a chill pill at Water Lion. This intimate wine bar, tucked inside the Sagamore Hotel, feels more like a members-only club without the lame humans. Partners Filip Trajkovic and Abbe Diaz have created an inviting space to enjoy two of life's greatest pleasures, i.e., sipping wine and slurping. Diaz curates the wine selection, changing things up frequently on a list of naturals, classics, and rarities. Can't decide? Diaz and her staff will prepare a custom wine flight for you. What's with the "alchemy" in the title? Well, there's a bit of magic in the air for sure. Diaz has nicknamed this tiny ten-seater "the marriage bar" for the number of proposals that have transpired there. Regardless of whether you subscribe to this ostensibly sacred institution (marriage, not Water Lion), you can be sure to feel the vibe once you're inside.

The old adage rings true: "Things in life worth having don't come easy." Finding the Cleat takes a little perseverance. You need to get to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne and walk a few meters past the nearest parking lot, at Boater's Grill. But the trek is worth it. The Cleat is a quaint oceanside bar located at a virtual oasis near the tip of Cape Florida. The views of Biscayne Bay alone are enough to sell the experience, with beach-style lounge chairs and picnic tables in the sand set up to provide you with a relaxing, resort-style setting while you sip your cocktails. Speaking of which, the mojitos here are among the tastiest (and strongest) you'll find in the Magic City — or anywhere, for that matter.

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

A dive bar isn't merely a place to drink in the middle of the day. You should also get a story — and maybe even a bit of history — with your glass. You'll find all of that and more at Mac's Club Deuce. The bar opened in 1926, many decades before South Beach became a haven for craft cocktails and frozen blender drinks. Of course, you still can't get a smoked rosemary old-fashioned or a pink flamingo surprise (or whatever it is they're pouring these days on Ocean Drive) at Mac's Club Deuce. The Deuce serves up unadorned drinks in a low-key setting. Two of the bar's most famous characters, owner Mac Klein and former frequenter Anthony Bourdain, have since gone to the last call in the sky, and South Beach continues to overdevelop, but the Deuce endures.

Opening a bar in the midst of a global pandemic is a risky move — but it's one that has paid off for Nathan Paul Smith. Part of Smith's decision to open Nathan's bar emerged from a desire for community after a period of isolation; the other part stems from Nathan's delightfully kitschy concept. A veteran of Twist, Miami's longest-lived gay bar, Smith infused Nathan's with his love of popular culture, like seating sections devoted to TV programs like Friends, The Brady Bunch, and The Real Housewives of Atlanta. That kind of shared nostalgia and sense of fun creates the perfect party atmosphere. In a nightlife scene fueled by spectacle and grandeur, Nathan's homey, casual feel is a welcome addition to Miami Beach — and all of South Florida, for that matter. As it nears its second anniversary, Nathan's Bar is a testament to the uniting power of pop culture, and it's a home away from home for Miami's queer community.

Best Outdoor Bar
Photo courtesy of Mila Restaurant

If you thought a rooftop experience on a Lincoln Road side street, where you have to take an elevator up, would go unnoticed — well, you'd be wrong. Going on its second year, Mila offers stunning views of South Beach from an outdoor deck that's popular with the newbie tech crowd and longtime locals alike. Interior designer Olya Volkova's minimalist Japanese-inspired aesthetic combines "imperfect" materials like natural stones and reclaimed woods with handmade fabrics and ceramics, accented by lush tropical plantings. It's a lovely and calm space, made lively by the folks who enjoy sipping expertly mixed cocktails en plein air — even when said plein air is our sticky, humid summertime stuff.

The Taurus
Photo courtesy of Blue Shell Media

The Taurus opened in 1926 as a neighborhood bar serving basic drinks and grub. It closed in the early 2000s, but thank the boozy angels that hover above our Magic City for reviving it in '09. The 21st-century version of the Taurus is a laid-back bar with a great whiskey selection, 50 or so beer selections, and great eats concocted by Ariete's Michael Beltran and Taurus chef Justin Flit. The food menu isn't long, but it's exactly what you want: pizza, wood-fired wings, and a burger to die for. Don't sleep on the daily happy hour from 5 till 8 p.m., which offers $8 cocktails in a dog-friendly environment.

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

South Beach is chock-full of bars, but you'll rarely catch locals in most of them. Sweet Liberty is one of the few exceptions, and it's no surprise given its pedigree: Founder John Lermayer was a legendary bartender and a pioneer of the Miami cocktail scene. Along with Miami veteran restaurateur David Martinez and veteran bar owner Dan Binkiewicz, Lermayer opened Sweet Liberty in 2015 to immediate acclaim, offering innovative cocktails and a food menu by James Beard-winning chef Michelle Bernstein that can't be ignored. Lermayer died suddenly in 2018, and the bar remains a testament to his creativity and positivity. Inside, a giant, pink neon sign reminds us to Pursue Happiness. That has become the motto of the bar and a reminder that, while life is short, enjoying cocktails with friends can last all night.

Original Fat Cats
Photo by Nicole Danna

Every bar requires three things, minimum: booze, enough finger food to soak up said booze, and good music to set the mood. Holding it down in Fort Lauderdale's Himmarshee Village since 2003, Original Fat Cats has stood the test of time for a reason. Its dark, Americana-littered walls and deep, dim space offer respite for those who seek something other than the suits-and-heels scene on Las Olas. Locals flock here for the eclectic mix of live music that draws a late-night crowd. And behind the bar, a formidable, constantly rotating selection of about two dozen craft beers. The best part just might be the solid menu of eats, available until 3 a.m. — everything from cheesesteak egg rolls to a Cuban sandwich to cheese-topped smash burgers to a grilled PB&J sandwich or a chicken and arugula salad. All of it, made just for you, well into the wee hours of the morning. If that's not your idea of bar goals, we cannot fathom what is.

Grails Restaurant & Bar
Photo courtesy of Grails

A sports bar requires two things: plenty of large-screen TVs and an endless supply of beer. But a great sports bar takes that basic concept and runs with it. That's what sets Grails apart from your dad's favorite dive. Yes, there are more than 60 TV screens, allowing you to catch everything from NFL to Premier League matches. But don't sleep on the menu. On the cocktail front, try the "Grails Juice," a souvenir squeeze bottle filled with whiskey, fresh ginger, ginger beer, and lime juice. Perhaps "Miami's Best Piña Colada" — their words, not ours — is more your speed; it's made from scratch. Counter the alcohol with cheeseburger dumplings, beer-brined wings, and/or poke nachos.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®