Miami's cocktail culture is still in its fledgling stage. While cities such as New York and New Orleans have dozens of bars where master mixologists create artful libations, Miami is still a relative child when it comes to serving thoughtful drinks made with fresh herbs, real fruit juices, and spirits that go way beyond Grey Goose.
Lantao Social Club, located in the front lobby of the newly renovated (and Kimpton-owned) Surfcomber Hotel in South Beach, has joined the shortlist of bars in South Florida making spirits rise. Working closely with Kimpton Hotels' master mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout, Lantao Social Club's bar chef Chad Phillips has created a cocktail menu that gives a nod to the Asian influences of the hotel's restaurant, Lantao Kitchen, while using juices and ingredients native to South Florida.
The cocktail menu takes classic recipes and reworks them to give them a modern vibe. In addition to the regular list of cocktails, each month a "forgotten" cocktail will be featured, such as the Alaska, Vieux Carre, or Seelbach. Bar chef Phillips makes his own elixrs, syrups, and infusions that make for some interesting creations. For example, some of the bottles behind the bar have been relabeled to read "duck-fat-infused rum," "beet-infused gin," and "strawberry-kiwi rum."
Lantao Social Club opens tonight. Starting next week, industry professionals can ask for a special card that allows them to eat and drink for 50 percent off on Mondays. During the summer, there will be other local and industry-specific offers and events, including a complimentary hands-on cocktail class every Sunday evening.
Judging by all the $12 cocktails we sampled, we think Lantao Social Club is poised to become the next locals hot spot for cool cocktails.
Beet Me in St. Louis is named after Phillips's hometown of St. Louis. Originally created for his wife, the cocktail is made with red-beet-infused Beefeater gin, tarragon syrup, and Domaine de Canton, and garnished with fresh tarragon. As mixologist Bezuidenhout pointed out, beets are good for your liver -- so drink up.
Will You Daiquiri Me? gets its blush color from strawberry-and-kiwi-infused Banks rum. If you think all daiquiris are slushy messes made with high-fructose corn syrup, you owe it to yourself to try what this classic cocktail is supposed to taste like. Hint: Before sipping, allow the fragrant strawberry scent to intoxicate you long before the rum does.
How do you drink Scotch when it's 95 degrees outside? Mix it with some Fever Tree ginger beer and a hint of citrus in a tall glass.
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The Queens Cup is a refreshing blend of Plymouth gin, Pimms, fresh lemon juice, and orange Pekoe-tea-infused simple syrup. It's served over a huge custom-crafted ice cube to avoid dilution so you can sip your "cup" in the Miami heat.
Phillips prepares a Tinhte. Vietnamese for "subtle," this labor-intensive cocktail features seven ingredients working in harmony.
The Tinhte is a frothy libation of egg white, Bullet rye, Luxardo Maraschino, lime juice, herb-infused simple syrup that's shaken twice and poured into a glass rinsed with apricot liquor. The seventh ingredient: four shakes of orange bitters to bring out all the flavors.