Where To Grab a Drink in Miami Right Now
If ever there was a time to drink.
Not that Miami isn’t usually the envy of America as we move into colder months. But this year in addition to our perpetual sunshine and pronounced lack of ice scrapers, we also have something else most of America not called South Dakota doesn’t: Bars that are fully open!
Though opinions may differ on the relative prudence of allowing people to congregate and imbibe during a global pandemic, the fact remains our bars are back up and running. And after six months of closure, they need our support to make sure they make it to 2021. Keep in mind closing time is still dictated by curfews, and you’ll have to wear a mask until you’re seated at a socially distanced table. And some of our favorite spots (Sweet Liberty, Swizzle) aren’t back open yet. But as far as places you can get out and drink for now, here are the best bars in Miami.
Black Market Miami
Anyone who lived through Miami in its cocaine-and-Orange-Bowl heyday will nearly be brought to tears by the décor at Black Market, where file photos of everyone from Michael Irvin to Pablo Escobar cover the walls. And while the place could easily pass as downtown’s second history museum, you’ll probably want to spend your time here watching one of the massive flat screens showing sports all day long. Or enjoying cocktails like the E11even After This, a spicy tequila watermelon creation that’ll have you primed to make some bad decisions.
In previous iterations of Miami, a bar called Over/Under that served 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 the bar storage here looks like it could have been an old tote board at Hialeah Park, there’s no wagering at Over Under (that we know of). There’s just a sunny front patio perfect for enjoying the bartenders’ frozen cocktails of the day on a warm afternoon, or indulging in the menu of bar comfort food highlighted by the best new burger of 2020.
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
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.
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.
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 delivers more than it promises, with live concerts on the outside patio, drag queen bingo on Wednesdays, and some of the best pizza in the city at its walk-up window Pizza Tropical. Much of that is on hold for the moment as the bar scales back capacity and offers only table seating under current regulations. But fingers crossed those concert-and-bingo glory days aren’t far from returning.
Grails Sports Bar
If you’ve ever dreamed of enjoying a drink out of a shoe 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 and 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.
Ball & Chain Miami
This legendary bar in Little Havana once housed the likes Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey, who played after-hours shows over 80 years ago. The current owners restored the place a number of years ago to look much like the original, and it’s now the spot in Little Havana for mojitos, pastelito daiquiris, and other drinks that transport you to Big Havana. The backyard bandshell won’t quite be the weekend concert-and-karaoke mecca it was for a while, but it’s still worth stopping in and enjoying a cocktail and cigar in the lush back patio
The Broken Shaker
Broken Shaker 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 by combining with the kitchen from 27 restaurant next door, it managed to stay open for much of this closed-down summer and notch a pretty impressive 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
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.
Perhaps the only drawback of this Asian garden in the sky was the impossibility of finding a seat from which to enjoy the view. But much like working from home and unsold middle seats, Sugar has found yet another coronavirus silver lining, as the tables once reserved for high-dollar minimums are now open for anyone who buys a cocktail. This may not last once bars are allowed to run at full capacity, so take full advantage while you can.
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
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.
Lost Boy Dry Goods
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.