Best Bar (Miami Beach) 2022 | Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Co. | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Seth Browarnik /

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.

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.

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.

Photo courtesy of Tripping Animals Brewing Co.

When Tripping Animals Brewing Co. came on the scene in 2018, no one could have guessed the Doral-based brewery — known nationwide for its whimsical animal-themed can art and fanciful fruited sours — would also become the steward of Miami's growing craft beer community. Over the past few years, the Venezualan-born and -reared team of brewers and owners (Daniel Chocron, Ignacio Montenegro, Iker Elorriaga, and Juan Manuel Torres) have banded together to become a living embodiment of all things South Florida beer. They host annual beer festivals like Irie Jungle that attract guest breweries from across the nation and they're the official sponsors of Miami's first official craft beer week, and they're ground zero for some of South Florida's best brews. The bustling taproom is typically packed with thirsty patrons ready to throw back a few lagers or sample their latest in a continual experimentation of hazy, hop-infused IPAs, boldly fruited sours, and dessert-themed stouts. It's easy to spend hours in Tripping Animals' cozy, lounge-like spaces, or the in-house restaurant from Meat & Bone, or the a large game room in the back of the brewhouse where you can shoot pool or hoops, throw darts, or even play video games.

Época Brewing photo

North Miami's newest nanobrewery, Época Brewing, isn't your average beer bar. Instead, think of a visit here as a way to escape to another place and time. The ethos: Take people on a journey to a different era — or epoch — telling stories of the past through the lens of craft beer. While most South Florida breweries have hopped on the local hype train delivering smoothie-inspired fruited ales and dessert-infused stouts, Época cofounders Danny Gutierrez, Jeffrey Delonny, and JC Otero chart a different course. A large bar overlooking the brewhouse presents 12 taps that feature the brewery's take on small-batch IPAs, lagers, and wild-fermentation ales — among them a signature house beer known as Zenith, a fruited and dry-hopped double IPA treated with strawberry and guava. Sip it in the chic, open-air taproom or the zen-like outdoor beer garden, a cozy, space with intimate lighting that has become the focal point of the Época experience.

Photo by Nicole Danna

Invasive Species is, without a doubt, South Florida's most "Florida" brewery. Maybe it's the one-of-a-kind museum of natural history-meets-urban warehouse taproom, decorated floor to ceiling with a rather large array of taxidermy. Maybe it's the equally impressive beer selection, a menu that covers everything from easy-drinking lagers and hop-bombed IPAs to fruit-infused sours and tropical drink-inspired hard seltzers. Or maybe it's the hardcore local crowd (many of them members of the brewery's Carouser Club mug club) that bellies up to the bar week after week, the cacophony of their conversation as loud as the eclectic list of tunes the staff is known to blast from the speakers. While the name is a nod to our state's non-indigenous flora and fauna, it's also an invitation to potential patrons, be they natives or transplants. For all of this we can thank South Floridians and brewers Phil Gillis and Josh Levitt, who teamed up with nearby Laser Wolf cofounders Chris and Jordan Bellus to offer a craft-beer experience that speaks purely to our Sunshine State. Twenty tap lines pour a constantly rotating selection of brews, but you'd be remiss if you didn't try repeat offerings like Ninja Juice, an ale brewed using almost 50 percent rice in place of traditional grains and fermented with sake yeast.

Photo by Nicole Danna

After Davy Martin moved to South Florida in 2011, the self-described hop head was hard-pressed to find a solid local IPA to his liking. To remedy the dearth of options, he began home brewing. When people told him he had a knack for turning grain into primo liquid, he took it one step further when he and his wife Jaime opened Orchestrated Minds. Today, the nanobrewery stands as a grassroots effort where the couple — alongside a small but dedicated staff — delivers a curated selection of small-batch beers. With hip-hop blasting from the speakers, the open-air ambiance is akin to sharing a cold one with your friends in the backyard, only here you do it with the owners and brewers themselves. It's the ideal spot to sip some of Davy's most well-received beers, recipes he's been perfecting using a one-barrel system. The brewer focuses on delivering true-to-style IPAs, simple sours, and roasty stouts that don't rely on the use of lactose or artificial extracts. That includes Touch of Grey, an easy-drinking, low-ABV blond ale accented with Earl Grey tea that presents notes of orange and lime, inspired from the couple's trips to craft beer mecca Hill Farmstead. For those hot summer days, try Surfer's Tan, a refreshing take on an unfiltered German-style pilsner. A trip to Orchestrated Minds isn't complete without a taste of the latest stout to hit the draft lines, each new beer a riff on Baseline, Davy's base stout recipe, which he uses to create the brewery's popular barrel-aged or adjunct-flavored stout series.

Photo by Nicole Danna

Miami-born Carlos Carreras and Nayra Serrano are the dish-dealing duo behind Masa Craft, the taproom restaurant operating out of M.I.A. Beer Company in Doral. The operation has its roots as a pop-up serving the local craft beer since 2018. Post-pandemic, the duo stepped in to feed the masses at M.I.A.'s busy taproom and hasn't looked back since. Carreras and Serrano fuse their roots for a unique mashup of their combined heritage that mixes Cuban, Spanish, and Filipino influences. They roll with a small and dedicated crew that consistently pumps out some of the area's best burgers and croquetas. Carreras, a longtime bartender and taproom manager, is behind the burgers, a specialty blend of brisket, chuck, and hanger that forms the base for dozens of sandwiches, from patty melts to the popular "Smackdown" smash burger topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and his own remoulade-style "Woo" sauce. Serrano, whose family owns Los Gallegos on Bird Road, comes in hot with her award-winning croqueta game. The three-day process behind each handcrafted ball of goodness requires topnotch ingredients — think chorizo and cheese sourced directly from Spain — hand-rolled just the way abuela used to make.

Photo by David Rodriguez

At Union Beer Store on Calle Ocho, you'll find coolers upon coolers filled with beers to please every taste bud. Owned by husband and wife David and Cici Rodriguez, the little brew bar and bottle shop has a well-earned reputation for its extensive collection of whales — rare suds and small releases from local and out-of-state breweries. Whether you seek a flavor reminiscent of açai sorbet or the beach-perfect lager, Union Beer not only sells bottles and cans to-go (you can mix and match to your heart's content) but also more than a dozen brands on tap. And growler fills! If drinking isn't enough for you, UBS is also home to munchies-quenching pop-up food vendors, including Peacock Ramen, Panolo's, and Haochi.

Photo courtesy of Jaguar Sun

Yes, we live in an expensive city. But you don't have to be rich to enjoy the finer things. Take for instance the daily happy hour at Jaguar Sun. From 5 to 7 p.m., this intimate bar in downtown Miami serves classy drinks — and classy bites — at wallet-friendly prices. Co-owner and bar manager Will Thompson is known for his skills with spirits. During happy hour, he'll make you an eight-dollar Manhattan so perfect it's called the "Perfect Manhattan." Other standards include a martini and a Tom Collins (also $8). If you don't like cocktails, there are special prices for beer and wine. The noshes are sophisticated and inexpensive: dollar oysters, three-dollar chilled crab claws, country ham, and a cheese and almond plate. Everything is of the highest quality and nothing costs more than ten dollars.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®