Beverage Director

Where to Grab a Drink in Miami Right Now

‘Tis the (patio) season.

Sweet Liberty Drinks and Supply Co.
Sweet Liberty Drinks and Supply Co. | Photo by Ellie Groden
Sweet Liberty Drinks and Supply Co. | Photo by Ellie Groden

Though we definitely wouldn’t recommend jumping on top of a car in full Joker gear and proclaiming that COVID is over, baby, it is heartening to see bars we all feared we’d lose during the pandemic making a strong return. Sweet Liberty is back. Swizzle is back. The Deuce is back—and we’re pretty sure some people have been sitting at the bar since it first closed its doors, none the wiser.

What’s even more encouraging is that despite how hard hit the hospitality industry was, some promising new spots are also making their mark as welcomed additions to South Florida’s drinking scene. So if you’re leaving the homestead for the first time in a minute or you happen to be one of the poor saps glued to a Deuce’s barstool, here are the best places to get a drink in Miami.

Sweet Liberty Drink & Supply Co.
Sweet Liberty Drink & Supply Co. | Photo by Adam DelGiudice Photography

If you’ve seen someone walking around Miami in a back jacket emblazoned with “Miami is the shit, bro,” chances are they’ve spent some time at Sweet Liberty. But Miami Beach’s most awarded cocktail bar isn’t just a hub for flashy outerwear, it’s a unicorn of a spot so damn good it attracts locals and tourists alike. Inside, addictive bar bites (the tater tots might be Miami’s de facto soak-up-the-booze food) and a fantastically creative cocktail menu await beneath a pink neon sign reminding us all to pursue happiness. It’s the ideal destination for both beginning and ending a night out, meeting up with a Tinder date, or simply shooting the shit with the famously talented bartenders. If a single bar can sum up this city’s 2021 drinking scene, it’s Sweet Liberty.

You like rum? And maps? Or perhaps rum, maps, AND sipping dozens of rare spirits in a space that straddles the line between an old-school captain’s quarters and plush English library? Then Swizzle is your jam. Helmed by a bunch of bartenders who cut their teeth at Employees Only and brought their leather-aproned show to the pseudo-basement of the Stiles Hotel, South Beach’s best rum cocktails can now be found inside this dark, cozy space. The lineup of specialty drinks is impressive and if you prefer chilling on straight rum, ask the barkeeps about the unusual stuff they have on hand like a particularly luxe collection of hard-to-find Haitian originals.

It’s kind of like a trip to your eccentric, gin-breathed aunt’s house when you head to The Sylvester, where Beaker & Gray’s Ben Potts has brought his crazy cocktail creations to a big room full of mismatched furniture. The Sylvester is as long on character as it is on still drinks, where colorful walls and tropical plants accent an eccentric collection of couches filled with a true cross section of modern Miami. The drinks have themes based around South Florida, too, whether it’s the Cayo Hueso Gimlet with Avion anejo graham and Key Lime cordial; or the Monkey Jungle with Monkey Shoulder, nitro cold brew, and banana custard cream.

901
901 | Photo courtesy of 901

901

Las Olas

You might find it surprising that a Ft Lauderdale bar sporting a Memphis area code would show up on a list of Miami’s top drinking dens. But there is truly nothing like this hotel-room-turned-speakeasy south of the county line, and given Las Olas is closer than Kendall to much of Miami, it’s not actually as far away as it sounds. Each week, the tricked-out suite invites different noted mixologists from around the country to showcase their skills by shaking special drinks for your intimate party of eight or less. Reservations come in two-hour blocks and there’s a pretty great food menu, too, with lobster rolls, bone marrow, and duck fat potato chips for absorbing all that fancy booze.

Pilo’s Tequila Garden
Pilo’s Tequila Garden | Photo courtesy of Pilo’s Tequila Garden

At first glance, a literal garden full of tequila might not seem the wisest concept in a city that’s about as big on moderation as we are on ice scrapers. But this sunny spot from the noted Brickell tacoleros is far classier than just a place to knock back shots in the sun. Its entryway doubles as an art gallery for local and international artists while a one-ton chandelier made of dyed rope welcomes passersby inside. Back in the garden, you’ll find pastel skulls draping one wall and murals from Senkoe and Vic Garcia covering the others as well as Wynwood’s ovly treehouse which, as you might expect, is where they stash the live DJ.

Reunion Ktchn Bar
Reunion Ktchn Bar | Photo courtesy of Reunion Ktchn Bar

If you haven’t been to one of Miami’s coolest suburbs since your parents dropped you off to watch Hangover 2 at Aventura mall, you’ll be happy to know that it too has come of age over the past decade—so much so it’s now home to one of the most underappreciated cocktail lounges in the city. Here you’ll find adventurous tapas-style bites like Japanese eggplant with garlic confit alongside some highly unusual cocktails making a play at putting Aventura on the nightlife map. Our advice? Start with the Shaman, a curious mix of shiitake-infused Diplomatico Plana rum, shiitake syrup, and Aureo Dulce Anejo 1954.

Over Under

Downtown

In previous iterations of Miami, a bar called Over/Under serving a simple menu of beer and frozen drinks in a narrow downtown storefront would 1,000 percent be a front for a bookmaker. And though this joint’s cubbyhole-lined backbar looks like it could double for an old tote board at Hialeah Park, there’s no wagering here (that we know of). There’s just a sunny front patio perfect for enjoying frosty creations on a warm afternoon while indulging in a bill of comfort food highlighted by one of the city’s best pub burgers.

While most people know 1-800 Lucky as the go-to for poke, pho, ramen, and pretty much any other Asian creation, the breezy outdoor bar at Wywnood’s Far East food fall is just as much a reason to go. Here, you can enjoy creative cocktails in a tropical garden setting, where big fans keep it cool even in the height of summer. It’s also the only bar in Miami where you can order from a half-dozen different Asian restaurants, if those drinks start making you hungry.

Cafe La Trova

Little Havana

It didn’t take long for Julio Cabrera to bring home a major accolade for his home turf bar at Café La Trova. Despite closing for most of the COVID-era, it still won the 2020 Tales of the Cocktail Best American Bar Team, a virtual award that means even more when the team had to stay home. The bar is back open now, so you can easily go visit this team in their vests and bow ties shaking stuff like the El Guayabero -- tequila, guava marmalade, cayenne-agave syrup, and lime juice.

Club Deuce

South Beach

Mac’s Club Deuce is the undisputed champion of Miami dive bars. No, there’s no outdoor seating. Yes, there’s smoking inside. But since when did anyone concerned with their health stop in for an 8am happy hour at the Deuce? This South Beach landmark is easily Miami’s most historic bar, home of the Miami Vice wrap party and a perpetual cloud of dimly lit smoke that leads to its legendary horseshoe bar.  The Deuce is so iconic, you’ll regularly find bartenders at other bars wearing Deuce gear. But the fame hasn’t gotten to its head; drinks, even during non-happy hour times, are still some of the cheapest in South Beach.

Gramps

Wynwood

No bar exemplifies ever-eclectic Wynwood better than Gramps, a golden concrete drinking den that promises nothing more than air conditioning, cold beer, and cocktails. But in a very un-Miami twist, it over-delivers on that promise with live concerts (on hold for now, but we know they’ll be back) on the patio, drag queen bingo on Wednesdays, and some of the tastiest pizza in the city at its walk-up window Pizza Tropical.

If you’ve ever dreamed of drinking from a shoe-shaped mug as you relax under the shadow of a $3,000 sneaker, consider this Valhalla. The self-professed sneakerheads behind the Cocktail Cartel have opened a sports bar in their own image, where the walls are adorned in collectable Jordans, Yeezys, and Back to the Future limited-editions and the ceilings are dripping in big-screen TVs. The cool back patio allows you to enjoy a game in the pleasant South Florida weather while sipping on an impressive list of craft cocktails highlighted by the Satisfy Your Sole, a vodka, watermelon, and ginger concoction served in a ceramic shoe. And though you can’t get the shoe to go, you can still order the rest of the menu to take home here.

Broken Shaker is, without question, the single-greatest youth hostel bar in history. Oversized chairs dot the massive, shady courtyard full of banyan trees and ferns and instead of pasty, creepy dudes with backpacks, you'll find an herb garden full of ingredients that fuel the boundary-pushing craft program inside. And by joining forces with neighboring 27 Restaurant & Bar, BS not only managed to stay open through much of the pandemic it also conjured up a head-turning new bar menu in the process.

The folks who pioneered the bathroom door foot pedal in Miami were way ahead of the viral-precaution curve. But Batch is about more than cool (and clean!) bathrooms, as for years it’s been the gathering place for Brickellites to watch sports and/or meet other Brickellites at bad decision hours. Though gathering and late nights are not so en vogue right now, Batch still wins with its best-in-Miami bar menu, highlighted by its prime brisket burger, brick oven pizzas, and one of Miami’s best mac-and-cheeses.

Monty's Raw Bar

Coconut Grove

After work happy hours have taken on a little different feel in 2020, as where you used to just roll from the office straight to the sprawling waterfront at Monty’s, now going out involves actually putting on pants. But Monty’s hasn’t changed too much in the COVID-era, offering the same cold beer, fried delicacies, and raw seafood it always has, now with the added advantage of no circulated-air anxiety and plenty of social distance.
 

Sugar

Brickell

Miami’s got no shortage of fantastic rooftop bars and drinking patios, but when it comes to pure, unadulterated, I-can’t-believe-I-live-here views, nothing compares to Sugar. From this heavenly garden in the sky, you can see Miami Beach’s expansive shores, west to the Everglades, south to Brickell and Coconut Grove, and all the way out to the county line. The best move is to head here just before sunset, order yourself a lychee blossom martini, and watch the city go from a sun-soaked tropical paradise to a dazzling neon light show that goes on for miles.

The Anderson

Shorecrest

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 ’90s movie posters on the wall, and a soundtrack that’s long on Biggie and the Spice Girls. It’s also got a massive outdoor space, where what it lacks in nostalgic posters it makes up for in open-air drinking and distanced tables for your COVID-era enjoyment.

Union Beer Store

Little Havana

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 your 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.

This massive, two-story space near the Olympia Theater is 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: 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.

Though it may be a minute until we see Sweet Liberty back on the scene, its mainland counterpart at Blackbird Ordinary is back up and running. Sadly its large back patio -- which would have been perfect for COVID-19 cocktails -- was roofed a few years back thanks to disgruntled Brickell City Centre residents, but Blackbird still has the best cocktail menu in Brickell. Since it’s likely been a while since you’ve been in, start back up with the classic Blackbird, featuring Seagram’s sweet tea vodka with fresh blackberries and lemonade over ice.

Matt Meltzer is a contributor for Thrillist. 
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