One of the founding fathers of Miami's cocktail scene, New York native John Lermayer forever changed the landscape of South Florida bars when he opened the Delano's Florida Room. The place brought well-crafted libations to a town best known for neon-colored frozen blender drinks poured from a box.
Since then, the bartender has traveled the world spreading the gospel of a well-turned drink. The contributor to the global cocktail community has done everything from sling drinks at the White House to shake cocktails under the Northern Lights. "I went to the North Pole, to the Ice Hotel," he says. "They snowmobiled us two-and-a-half hours from the airport."
Lermayer recently related an afternoon of drinking sherry in Spain in a distiller's private gallery "filled with hundreds of Picassos."
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Despite all of that travel, it's Miami that Lermayer calls home. His bar, Sweet Liberty (which he co-owns with restaurateur David Martinez and Blackbird Ordinary's Dan Binkiewicz), celebrated its first anniversary in September. It has already amassed a cadre of awards, including best new American cocktail bar at the annual Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. Sweet Liberty was also deemed one of the ten best bars in the United States by Playboy. Lermayer takes those kudos in stride. "I guess it validated our vision and what we were thinking, but we don't put a lot of emphasis on awards. Our award is being able to open every day."
The barkeep says his team's combined vision was to open a place that would speak to the neighborhood. "What makes a great bar is how well it fits into the city where it lives."
Sweet Liberty has done just that. At this part neighborhood watering hole, part destination venue, Lermayer has implemented everything from a bartender's table where guests can drink behind the bar for a night to a Jell-O wrestling tournament with local celebrities Juleisy y Karla. No matter what entertainment happens at the bar, one thing remains certain: the innovative cocktails. For Lermayer, there's no compromise. "Our only goal is to be the best bar that we can be and that we grow with the city."
We'll drink to that.