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A landmark dive bar with an early-morning happy hour
Mac’s Club Deuce is the undisputed champion of Miami dive bars. While its namesake owner passed away recently at the age of 101, the bar lives on as a testament to everyone in South Beach who enjoys 2-for-1 drinks at 6 in the morning. It’s the odd Miami landmark that hasn’t been torn down or renovated, and if you can see through the smoke at the horseshoe bar, you’ll find some of Miami’s greatest characters sitting inside.
The backyard of a hostel slinging top-notch cocktails
It is, without question, the single-greatest youth hostel bar in history. Where instead of pasty, creepy dudes with backpacks, you'll find an herb garden full of ingredients for the craft cocktails made inside. Oversized chairs dot the massive, shady courtyard full of banyan trees and ferns. And on the odd cool night, there’s no better place to relax outdoors with a tasty cocktail.
Coconut Grove’s waterfront, happy hour stalwart
Believe it or not, there are a handful of people in Miami who have these crazy things called “9-to-5 jobs they can actually explain.” And on Friday nights, pretty much all of them end up at this waterside raw bar in Coconut Grove. Add in a hefty number of UM kids who might still be in the Grove from the night before and kicking off your weekend here is a true way to experience what life is really like for Miami locals.
Sports, food, and nightlife with craft cocktails on tap
Nobody’s mistaking Miami for anything close to a “sports town,” or even a “town that realizes it has a hockey team.” But if you live in Downtown or Brickell and long for a communal game-watching experience, Batch is the place to go. Many of the tables have cocktails and beer on tap AT THE ACTUAL TABLE WHERE YOU SIT... so there’s not need to get up from the big, comfy booths or even wait for a server.
An Asian garden in the sky
We highly suggest you check out this Asian tropical oasis on the roof of the East Hotel on, like, a Tuesday at 4:30pm for one or two drinks. While the cocktails, views, and creative food have made this one of the best rooftop bars in America, drink prices can be almost as lofty as the floor it sits on. So maybe after sundown, head somewhere else.
Brickell’s best drinks have stood the test of time
Some of the saltier locals among us may remember a time when Blackbird was that perfect combination of deliciously dim-lit interior and warm, sprawling patio. Where you could enjoy drinks like the signature Blackbird -- Seagram’s sweet tea vodka with fresh blackberries and lemonade over ice -- with a nice Miami breeze in the back. But the fine residents of Brickell City Center weren’t feeling the noise, and that patio is now roofed in like Marlins Park. No matter, the drinks here are still the best in Brickell, and it’s held on as one of the neighborhood’s hottest spots for nearly a decade.
Art and vintage chairs in which to enjoy craft cocktails
This spot is tucked away on the ground floor of an apartment building, sandwiched between a pizza place and the front lobby. But once inside you’ll find an expertly-crafted cocktail menu served out amongst kitchy, vintage furniture. The high ceilings allow for large, thought-provoking murals on the wall, making this one of the more visually stimulating places to drink in a seemingly urbane area.
A throwback to the '30s with a heavy Cuban flair
Miami is about as big on history as we are on ice scrapers, but the legends that have played at this bar are as much a part of the draw as the pastelito daiquiris. Names like Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey played after-hours shows nearly 80 years ago, and the new owners have restored the place to look much like it did during its heyday. They’ve even kept the original Dade County Pine ceiling supports, and added a big bandshell out back shaped like a pineapple.
As close to the '90s as you’re getting without having to give up your cell phone
A good night at The Anderson feels a lot like being at your high school homecoming dance. The décor and cocktails here are all about Gen-X nostalgia, with drink names like “Trapper Keeper” and “Too Old for this S**t,” old '80s and '90s movie posters on the wall, and a soundtrack that’s long on Biggie and the Spice Girls. But even those born after 1990 (and before 1997!) can enjoy this place... they just may need some of the references explained.
An award-winning cocktail bar that’s a go-to for happy hour
Forget the accolades this place has won (the Tales of the Cocktail Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar, Playboy’s Best Bars in America, and, most importantly this list) -- Sweet Liberty gives South Beach something it so desperately needed: a cool bar not hell-bent on gouging tourists that’s also not a dive. Here you’ll find Beach locals enjoying fine beverages like the Que Pina with gin, chartreuse, pineapple, and sage. Or the Velvet Sideswipe with mezcal, Ancho Reyes, pineapple, pepper, and lemon. But more often you’ll find them here for the Beach’s best happy hour, where 75-cent oysters are accompanied by $5 cocktails from 4pm-7pm.
Old wrestling pay-per-views with a side of local drafts
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Hmm… this Tuesday night is really calling for a citrus lager and reruns of Summerslam 1995,” you’ve found you new home. This narrow Little Havana beer bar has old-school TVs playing wrestling pay-per-views from back when it was still WWF, with old action figures and “Estevie 3:16” signage as a Miami homage to Stone Cold. Knowing nothing goes better with wrestling than beer, the owners have stocked the place with brews from all over South Florida, mostly on draft so there’s no danger of throwing bottles at the screen. If you’re hungry, Union also has food from Tacos and Tattoos. Especially yummy when celebrating a big win by Tito Santana.
A little slice of Texas with a literally-unbelievable happy hour
This massive, two-story space near the Olympia Theater is in not officially themed after the Lone Star state. But anyone who's been to an oversized Texas bar done up in American flags and cowboy boots can’t help but notice the resemblance. The other big similarity to the Lone Star state: the drink prices. In a very un-Miami turn, you can get single-liquor drinks for under $10, with $4 drinks during Happy Hour. The walls are lined with books and the crowd is laid back and casual, a perfect downtown respite from the constant show of Miami nightlife.
Sweet drinks paired with Miami’s best bar food
There’s a reason Jaguar Sun has become a hangout for local cocktail writers and bloggers, and it’s not because they enjoy taking public transportation. They might enjoy this bar under the First Street Metromover because of the food, from a chef with history at Momofuku and Per Se. But it’s more because one can easily lose an entire evening marveling at the creativity of mixologist Will Thompson, who’ll craft custom drinks based on whatever mood you’re in. If you’re not in the mood for his inspiration, the menu is full of winners, whether simple stuff like the pineapple daiquiris or spicy stuff like the Green Ghoul with tequila, mezcal, poblano peppers and chamomile.
The not-so-secret speakeasy above a Taquerias el Mexicano
Just when you thought Miami had reached full Taqueria speakeasy saturation, the folks behind Ball & Chain took the game up a level. Literally. After taking over the classic neon Taquerias el Mexicano they went to work upstairs, creating a Mexican candy store mock-up right above the restaurant. Venture up and a friendly older lady will tell you about the candy on the shelves, before magically opening a “secret” door, leading to Los Altos. Once inside, you’ll find a small club with craft cocktails, where people dance among private tables -- like Mokai with better drinks and less douchebaggery. The best part about Los Altos is once you’ve had your fill of their mezcal-filled masterpieces, you’re only a short walk down the stairs to baskets of chips and salsa to soak it all up.
Travel back to the Gilded Age heyday of Florida hotels
The reception area from the old Surf Club has been transformed into Le Sirenuse, a fine cocktail bar with frescos on the wall and live singers in the evenings. The bar feels like a throwback to the 1930s, with well-dressed people lounging on plush couches while a jazz singer entertains them well after dark. It’s the kind of high-class experience guests at the swanky Four Seasons come to Miami to have, a little reminiscent of the scene you might find at the HMF bar at The Breakers in Palm Beach. Except the view of the ocean is better.
Tableside cocktails in a dark hostel bar
Europe’s flashy lifestyle Generator Hostel opened its first US location in Miami in late 2018, finally giving the beach a hotel for under $100 you won’t have to share with a family of squirrels. With it came the Jim & Nessie, a lobby cocktail bar and restaurant with dim lighting and booths perfect for tucking into with a hostel guest you just met. The drinks are crafted tableside, with the restaurant’s twist on a classic Manhattan -- Aberfeldy 12-year-old whisky, Santa Teresa Anejo rum, cardamaro, and toasted pecan tincture -– tasting much better when you’re not fighting masses at the bar.
Julio Cabrera’s creations served in 1950s Havana
Michelle Bernstein’s teamed with Miami’s most famous mixologist Julio Cabrera to open Café La Trova, where bartenders in vests and bow ties shake cocktails to the beat of the live Cuban band, playing in front of a wall made to look like a Havana street scene. The décor is almost as detailed and nuanced as the drinks themselves, with stuff like the El Guayabero -- tequila, guava marmalade, cayenne-agave syrup, and lime juice -- creating the kinds of flavors that earned Cabrera his accolades. For fun, order up the Yin y Tony (say it out loud and it makes sense) or La Chancleta -- served, as the name might imply, in a flip flop.
Brad Kilgore brings Japanese cocktails to Wynwood
James Beard-nominated Brad Kilgore brings us the long-awaited follow up to Alter, a Japanese Design District space with far-east inspired cocktails. But give credit where it’s due; the drink menu is mostly courtesy of Nico de Soto, who created a menu long on Japanese spirits, like the Hokkaido Sour with soy milk-washed Japanese whiskey, licorice kuromitsu syrup, lemon juice and kombu bitters. You’re never likely to find the place empty, but if you can finagle yourself to the back you’ll find -- what else -- a speakeasy called AMA, that offers a quieter, more exclusive vibe.
A bar, restaurant and flea market mixes vodka and vintage
Sadly, this is not like a bar at Burning Man where no cash is allowed and you trade a free hug or Advil for a Coors Light. Rather it’s a series of bars in trailers set opposite a makeshift flea market, where you can peruse books, vintage clothes, music, and all sorts of other stuff you never buy at art fairs. Inside you’ll find a small-ish warehouse space, where DJs play in a scene reminiscent of the high school raves you went to in sketchy parts of Broward. Except here there’s a full liquor bar and the freedom to tell your parents exactly where you were.
A disco-ball interior with craft cocktails for locals
Slowly, but surely, Downtown Miami is finding its footing, and a big part of its surging nightlife is Mama Tried, where red carpet, mirror-ball hanging lights, and a starlit bar make this feel like a 1970s bowling alley bar, minus the cloud of smoke. The drinks are reasonably-priced: $10-$12 for crafted cocktails, created by a team with Sweet Liberty and Blackbird Ordinary pedigree. On the menu you’ll find clever names like the John Daly and the Raspberry Beret, but the Instagram star is the Scarface-inspired Elvira Hancock: An oversized two- to four-person drink served in a disco ball with Absolut Elyx, citrus, rosemary, berries and Champagne.