Over the past few years, the number of cocktail bars in Miami has grown exponentially. The Magic City is slowly starting to carry its own against world-class destinations such as New York and London by seeing the opening of award-winning bars like the Broken Shaker and Sweet Liberty.
Though anyone can simply make a drink, it takes a great bartender to create cocktails that are pleasing to the senses while giving guests that extra bit of attention to keep them coming back for more. Much like chefs, bartenders are expected to use ingredients that blend seamlessly at a moment's notice, whether the guest orders a drink off the menu or requests a cocktail tailored to exact specifications.
Here are ten bartenders who go above and beyond their duties to keep Miami's thirst quenched. Each of the following cocktail professionals might be involved in several projects at the same time — working at one establishment while creating a beverage program at another. As such, there may be several places in Miami to try their drinks, but the location for which they are best known is listed.
Danilo Dacha Božovic. Two years ago, Danilo Božovic came to town to open the Miami Beach outpost of Employees Only after serving as the principal bartender at the flagship in New York. Though the beloved bar has since closed, Božovic has kept himself deeply embedded in the Miami bar scene. He’s penned the book Barkeep: The Guide to Becoming a Professional Bartender and has another on the way that focuses on swizzled cocktails. Most recently, he revamped the bar program at Faena's many outlets. The bartender is known for his ability to make a consistently poured drink without the use of jiggers or other measuring tools. Right now he's is in the process of reopening his beloved Swizzle Rum Bar, where rum aficionados can soon witness his tiki drink skills. Swizzle Rum Bar & Drinkery, opening summer 2019.
Julio Cabrera. Known for his classic cantinero bartending style, Julio Cabrera has more than three decades of experience behind bars around the world, from his motherland of Cuba to Italy to Mexico, before making Miami his home. While working in Cancún, Cabrera met chef Michelle Bernstein, who persuaded him to move to Miami, where he created the bar programs at her restaurants Michy’s and Sra. Martinez. Next he went on to join the team that opened the Regent Cocktail Club in South Beach. Cabrera has graced the cover of GQ as "America’s Most Imaginative Bartender" and taught bartenders through the world's largest producer of spirits, Diageo. Now Cabrera can be found in Little Havana at Cafe La Trova, which he owns with longtime friend Bernstein and her husband David Martinez. The cocktail menu is an homage to his Cuban roots, and the back bar pays tribute to the Magic City of the '80s. Be sure to try La Chancleta, a cocktail made with Yaguara Ouro cachaça, ginger-honey syrup, and lime juice ($12). Cafe La Trova, 971 SW Eighth St., Miami; 786-615-4379; cafelatrova.com.
Eddie Fuentes. Before opening the bar program at Finka Tap & Table in West Kendall, Eddie Fuentes worked at major players such as Bleau Bar at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach and the Broken Shaker. As a partner in Cocktail Cartel, the beverage consulting firm behind the drink programs at establishments such as JW Marriott Miami Turnberry's Tidal Cove and Jose Mendin's La Placita, Fuentes is known for putting a Miami spin on classic drinks. The next time you're at La Placita, try a Guayaba Colada. It's a twist on a Miami Vice, made with Don Q Cristal rum, coconut cream, guava, and cold-pressed pineapple ($12). Fuentes' new bar, Spanglish, is set to debuting this summer in Wynwood. La Placita, 6789 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-400-8173; pubbellyglobal.com/restaurants/la-placita-miami.
Fraser Hamilton. Sweet Liberty’s bar manager has worked in his fair share of places around the Magic City, including Blackbird Ordinary and Beaker & Gray. Fraser Hamilton is practically a walking encyclopedia of bar knowledge, so it's not surprising that when Time Out Market Miami needed a cocktail menu to show off the best in the city, Hamilton was involved. Representing Sweet Liberty, he created two cocktails for the food hall's specialty menu, including a twist on a 50/50 martini called the Five-O Five-O, made sous vide with Plymouth gin, vermouth, blueberries, and grapefruit and topped with a couple of blueberries for good measure ($11). Sweet Liberty, 237 20th St., Miami Beach; 305-763-8217; mysweetliberty.com.
Tyler Kitzman. Tyler Kitzman has tended bar at a variety of beloved Miami establishments, but at the moment he can be found at Mama Tried in downtown Miami, where he’s a co-owner and creator of the cocktail menu that boasts the Sparkling Tommy's, made with Altos tequila, lime, agave syrup, sparkling wine, and Mexican spiced salt ($11). Right on theme with his affinity for agave, Kitzman is one of eight finalists up for Patrón’s 2019 Margarita of the Year. His Flamingo Park margarita is a Miami-inspired creation made with Patrón Reposado, Patrón Citrónge Orange, grapefruit sparkling water, fresh lime juice, agave syrup, martini bitters, and a Tajín sea salt and black pepper rim with a dehydrated lime wheel for garnish. Mama Tried, 207 NE First St., Miami; 786-803-8087; mamatriedmia.com.
Valentino Longo. Miami Beach was introduced to Valentino Longo at the end of 2015 when he ran the bar program for La Moderna, with a location in Rome and one in South Beach's Sunset Harbour. It wasn’t long before he was recruited by the Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club to lead the bar at the prestigious Le Sirenuse. His cocktail menu includes drinks with aromatics that are spritzed on each cocktail much like one would put on perfume. Longo's Hint of Woods cocktail is made with a Gra’it grappa finish, Solerno blood orange liqueur, lime juice, and rosemary syrup and arrives topped with ginger beer with a honey-and-rosemary essence ($24).Le Sireneuse, 9011 Collins Ave., Surfside; 305-381-3333; fourseasons.com/surfside.
Shauna O’Neil. With a mentor like John Lermayer, it’s no surprise Shauna O'Neil is a powerhouse behind the bar. She’s worked at neighborhood favorites such as Clarke’s Irish Pub, handled crazy amounts of tequila at Bodega, and has perfected her skills at Sweet Liberty, the bar co-owned by Lermayer before his death. In an industry where career bartenders are predominately men, O'Neil has never had a problem holding her own behind the stick. She can often be seen making Sweet Liberty's signature piña colada using a house-made three-rum blend, pineapple, coconut cream, Jamaican coffee beans, and a Pedro Ximénez float ($14). Sweet Liberty, 237 20th St., Miami Beach; 305-763-8217; mysweetliberty.com.
Chris Resnick. A Midwest transplant known for creating cocktails with quirky pop-culture names, Chris Resnick moved to Miami Beach in 2017 and worked at hot spots such as Sweet Liberty and the Regent Cocktail Club before landing the beverage manager position at the Kimpton Angler's Hotel in South Beach. Resnick won last year's Bitter Battle, a Negroni competition featuring some of Miami's top bartenders in honor of Negroni Week. Resnick's love of tropical-print shirts makes him easy to spot at Minnow Bar inside the Angler's. Ask for a Honey Dude, made with Mahon gin, blanc vermouth, honeydew, and matcha ($13). Minnow Bar, 660 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-534-9600; theanglersresort.com.
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Derek Stilmann. A familiar face in Miami’s bar scene, Derek Stilmann has represented the city in competitions of all kinds. In the past year alone, he competed on the Miami team at Cazadores’ Bartender Boxing during Tales of the Cocktail 2018 and traveled to London as a finalist in Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition. Stilmann is a cancer survivor who's never slowed down. These days he's busy behind the bar at the Sylvester, which he co-owns with Ben Potts and Ranieri Cassuola. Try his tropical version of a Negroni, made with the Botanist gin, aged vermouth, and young Thai coconut-infused Campari ($14). The Sylvester, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami; thesylvesterbar.com.
Will Thompson. While living in Boston, Will Thompson worked his way up in one of the city's most respected bars, Drink, before consulting for bar programs all over Boston, New York, and Chicago. Wanting a change of pace, he took a position as the East Coast brand ambassador for Grand Marnier, where multiple trips to Miami left him yearning for the city. Thompson moved to Miami in 2018 and almost immediately opened Jaguar Sun. At his downtown bar, Thompson has concocted a menu that invites guests to experiment with different flavor profiles. The most popular drink on his current menu is the Green Ghoul, made with tequila, mezcal, poblano, cucumber, chamomile, and lime ($12). Jaguar Sun, 230 NE Fourth St., Miami; 786-860-2422; jaguarsunma.com.