Cocktails & Spirits

New iPic Movie Theater Features Bespoke Cocktails, Nitro Mojitos, Hefty Price Tag

Adonis Creed runs through the streets of Philadelphia. As a rap song segues into the familiar strains of the Rocky theme, I sip my mojito, sharing the young boxer's moment of joy and triumph as he realizes that he is ready for his shot at the title.

Miami's first iPic movie theater has opened in North Miami Beach at the Intracoastal Mall, and it's state of the art. The multiplex has eight theaters, each boasting recliners complete with toss pillow and furry throw. Seats are grouped in twos, with a table in between each one, forming what looks more like a cabaret than a traditional theater. The tables have a call button — and here's where the magic happens. Press it and a server appears to take your order for food and cocktails.

Though the notion of having a better food and drink experience with your movie isn't exactly new (I have been enjoying a beer or glass of wine at Coconut Grove's Cinépolis for years now), this new iPic takes things to a completely different level.

The whole idea of an upscale movie theater comes from iPic president and CEO Hamid Hashemi. The executive, who started Muvico Theater in 1984, decided that with cable and Netflix making it easier for people to stay home and watch movies, he needed to give his audience more bang for their buck. In 2006, he founded iPic Entertainment in an attempt to give a private screening room experience to the general public. The North Miami location is the 13th iPic theater to open, with another Florida theater located in Boca Raton.

Of course, if you're going to have a luxury experience, you can't just serve stale popcorn and Coke. Hashemi tapped Sherry Yard and Adam Seger to run the chain's food and beverage operations.  

A two-time James Beard winner, Yard served as executive pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck's empire for nearly two decades, during which time she made 25,000 pizzas a week and catered high-profile Hollywood events for Puck. Yard, clad in her signature pastel pink chef's jacket, explains that each iPic theater has its own executive chef who oversees both the full-service restaurant, the Tuck Room, and the theater's menu that features finger foods like warm biscuits with black forest ham, cheddar cheese, and maple butter ($12); filet sliders with caramelized onions, wild arugula, and blue cheese ($20); fritto misto of calamari, shrimp, and garden vegetables ($15); and a chicken Caesar salad ($15).

Yard insists the food is restaurant quality, with the buttermilk fried chicken ($14) brined the way you would make it at home. From the bites sampled at a media preview, the food was on par with any midlevel suburban restaurant chain. Yes, it's superior to that of typical movie nachos and hot dogs, but at $20 for sliders, it's a high price point for average fare. Also, some food didn't work in a lounging position (and in the dark) and I found myself wearing some of the chocolate and peanut butter bar ($12) when I did a mirror check after the show. 

The cocktails, designed by Adam Seger, are much better both in quality and the ability to work with them while watching a movie. Seger, who has amassed a resume that includes the French Laundry and the Seelbach Hotel's Oakroom, has created a cocktail program that's quite impressive on its own — let alone when you think that it's in a multiplex. 

The bar features a library of 27 different rums that include choices like Flor de Caña Centenario Gold 18-Year ($21), Plantation Barbados Vintage 2001 ($15), and Facundo Exquisito Blend ($19). Any of the rums can be used to make a bespoke, hand-shaken daiquiri, rum old fashioned, or Havana Cowboy, a cocktail made with whiskey, smoke, rum, and bitters ($7). 

The cocktail that Seger is most proud of is the mojito. The bartender admits that the drink, in the hands of some bartenders, has become a Miami cliché. But he sets out to do the libation right by hand pressing sugarcane juice and using mint frozen in liquid nitrogen. The mint then is pulverized, enabling you to get the frostiness of the flavor without the annoying bits of leaves in your teeth and your straw. Sipping the cocktail will have you smitten with the mojito all over again.

The Tuck Room offers a sit-down dining experience and, although I didn't try it, the menu is a slightly extended version of the one available in the theater.

With premium seating starting at $16 (up to $12 extra if you opt for the reclining seats with pillows and blanket), drinks and a movie can easily reach $100 for two people — more if you add in dinner. The theater offers member discounts, but even then, the price is dear. My advice? Don't cancel your Netflix account and save the iPic experience for date nights and blockbusters — with cocktails.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss