If you're craving an after-work cocktail, happy-hour libation, or weekend tipple, look no further than one of Miami's best bars, according to experts.
Earlier this week, North America's 50 Best Bars released its list of the best drinking dens in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean — and two familiar favorites have once again claimed a spot.
The annual list celebrates the best of the bar and cocktail industry and provides a ranking of bars voted for by drinks experts from around the world.
This year, 15 new establishments were added to the top 50 picks. Among them, one Miami restaurant still holds sway as one of the best bars not only in the Magic City but the world. (The complete list can be viewed at worlds50bestbars.com.)
Little Havana's Café La Trova, which pays homage to Cuba's historic cantinero style of bartending, took the ninth slot on the North American list. Miami Beach's Sweet Liberty was ranked 34th. Bar Lab Hospitality's global beverage director Christine Wiseman was named the Altos Bartenders' Bartender Award at the same ceremony held in Mexico.
This year, Café La Trova co-owner and maestro cantinero Julio Cabrera was also given the Roku Industry Icon Award, chosen to represent someone who has worked to progress the bar industry the most.
"For the last few years, we've been honored to receive the recognition and also to be in the top ten in North America, which is amazing," Cabrera tells New Times. "We are very happy about that."
At Café La Trova, visitors are transported to the island of Cabrera's birth. The restaurant is part of his promise to his family to open a restaurant like the one they lost during the Cuban Revolution. Cabrera remembers spending time with cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles at his father's establishment as a child. It was open 24 hours a day, functioning as a coffee shop, restaurant, and bar that would transform into a late-night spot for live music, beer, wine, and cocktails.
"I never thought to become a bartender. My parents wanted me to go to university, but destiny had a different path. I was bored at my job, and someone told me the hotels were looking for people to work, so I went to apply for bartending, and they accepted me," explains Cabrera, who began his bartending career in the late '80s, working as a cantinero by night while teaching others the profession by day.
The cantineros at the Little Havana bar and restaurant are clad in dinner jackets and offer expert service as they perform before patrons with shakers and strainers. If you've never been, it's worth a trip to experience the performance that comes with classic Cuban cocktails like the "Floridita's Hemingway Daiquiri," the "Cantineros' Special," and the "Trio Matamoros" (single-barrel rum served neat with a cafecito and cigar).
Today, Cabrera says he feels lucky to work alongside family once more, including his wife, father-in-law, cousins, and children, all while embracing everything that is important to the Cuban culture, from the food and cigars to coffee, rum, and live music.
"When I started my career in Miami, I was 42. Little by little, I gained notoriety and won a few awards just being myself and showing my passion for my profession. And when I opened my bar, I was 55, hoping to carry on the legacy and heritage of my family and give back to my family what they lost," Cabrera says.
"Moving forward, my goal is to help guide the future generation of bartenders here in Miami," he adds. "My hope is to teach them how to build a lifelong career. All you need is passion and integrity."