South Beach is known for its over-the-top party scene and pristine beaches, but step through the doors of the Setai Hotel and you'll find a world of elegant coolness.
The bar has always served creative and classy cocktails, but with the help of master mixologist Philip Khanderish, it has upped its game. Khanderish, who has been with the Setai nearly five years, has created a cocktail menu that combines classic elements with just the right amount of flair.
Khanderish asks if I like Scotch cocktails before making me a rose hip whisky sour with orange-peel-infused Glenrothes Alba, rose hip liqueur, calamansi juice, and egg white ($18). The cocktail showcases the barman's preference of flavor profiles, which run to Asian and Middle Eastern influences like rose and calamasi — a small, tart Filipino citrus. "Our concept is a balance of elegant and exotic with Asian influences," he says.
The bartender shows off in his cocktails an array of house-made infusions using figs, apricots, oranges, and peppers. For instance, the Samurai in Jalisco ($17) combines shishito pepper and orange-infused Avion reposado with Aperol and grapefruit juice. Rimmed with lime-grapefruit salt and garnished with a pepper, it's a clever way to use Mexican tequila on an Asian-inspired menu.
Attention is paid to every detail. Khanderish makes Cointreau caviar and floats it in the Golden Crane ($18), made with Imperia vodka, Lillet Blanc, and saffron shrub. A gilded origami crane is perched atop the glass as a finishing touch. Khanderish says each bird is hand-folded.
Of course, this being South Beach, there are some extravagant offerings that can easily break the bank. These cocktails are made with high-end spirits and, in some cases, precious metals. A take on the Moscow mule, the golden mule ($25) is made with saffron-infused Russian Standard vodka, saffron shrub, ginger beer, and edible gold flakes. The elegant double beet, with Nolet's gin, Grand Marnier 100, beet purée, allspice syrup, and pineapple, is topped with pineapple caviar. It's a cocktail built for two that costs $75.
If you're going for the gold, however, aim for the gold martini. Made with Russian Standard Gold vodka, Louis XIII cognac, Grand Marnier Cuvée 1880, Riesling ice wine, and 24-karat gold flakes, it comes with a hefty price tag of $100. It's best reserved for birthdays, anniversaries, and Miami Heat players.
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If you're in the mood to blow a wad of cash, there's also a luxury cognac flight for $550. Louis XIII, Richard Hennessy, and Camus Jubilee are served in specially made glasses.
Even with the high-roller libations, there's room for locals to enjoy a well-made cocktail before dinner. As Khanderish says: "We have beautiful, hand-crafted cocktails and impeccable service. This is the place to come if you want to have an experience."