Miami’s First Distillery Is a Golden Girls Dream

Tropical Distillers looks exactly like you imagined it would.

Photo courtesy of Tropical Distillers

If you’ve been along the Kentucky Bourbon trail or gone whisky tasting through Scotland, you know distilleries have a certain “look,” a motif of stately red bricks and towers of oak casks, set against green rolling hills and a misty sky.

In Miami, it looks a little different.

In Miami, it looks like Sophia got a crazy idea one weekend and set up a copper still in The Golden Girls living room. It’s pastel walls, breezy back patios, palm trees, and plenty of neon. It’s a wicker-lined bar pouring drinks full of tropical fruit and Cuban coffee. And the bright aroma of citrus replacing the distinct smell of fermenting grain.

Such is the case at Tropical Distillers, set to open this July in Allapattah. It’s the first distillery in the city of Miami proper—a mural-covered, 9,000-square foot facility making vibrant tropical liqueurs with a distinctly Miami sense of place. “It would've been easy to do a wall of wood barrels and throw some brick up and we probably could have had this place open six months ago,” says Tropical Distillers CEO and Miami hospitality vet Buzzy Sklar. “But we really wanted it to be a true Miami experience.”

Photo courtesy of Tropical Distillers

Palm trees, herons, and pink pastel everything

The Miaminess of the place hits you even before you walk in, as the smell of processing citrus makes the surrounding streets smell like stretches of the Turnpike that run past OJ facilities in Indian River County. Inside, visitors are greeted by a gift shop done up in bright pink and aquamarine, with a heron mural flying above racks of T-shirts, cocktail kits and souvenir bottles, and a palm tree standing in the center.

The gift shop is the jumping off point to Tropical’s distillery tours, led by master distiller Devin Walden. Walden, one of the few women at the top of her field, came to Tropical from Woodford Reserve in Kentucky, and with her close-cropped blonde hair and tattoos makes the experience a little like going on a distillery tour with Pink.

Walden leads guests through the 9,000-square foot distillery, where they’ll see the thousand-gallon still and copper “innovation still” where she plays mad scientist with new flavors. The tour concludes in the distillery’s tasting room, where guests belly up to a bar topped with vintage Miami postcards, and taste five original spirits.

Photo courtesy of Tropical Distillers

After tasting, guests can order one of several original cocktails, like Haden's Old Fashioned, made with J.F. Haden mango liqueur, bourbon, cherries, and orange rounds. Or the Haden’s Espresso Martini, a mix of J.F. Haden espresso liqueur and vodka, topped with a sprinkling of coffee beans.
They’ll enjoy said cocktails around the tasting room bar, where tropical foliage, wicker, and dominoes on the wall dominate the decor. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out into the production floor, so guests can watch how their spirits are made.

Guests can also sip drinks on Tropical Distillers’ breezy 1,500 square foot back patio, which will also host food trucks and include to-be-determined bar games.

Photo courtesy of Tropical Distillers

Meet the spirits coming out of Tropical Distillers

Tropical Distillers’ flagship is the J.F. Haden’s family of liqueurs, named after the man who owned the first mango grove in Dade County. The opening lineup includes mango and citrus liqueur, alongside an espresso liqueur made with local-roasted coffee.

“I really like that I’ve been able to express my creativity more here,” says Walden, who created the Espresso liqueur from blends used in Cuban coffee. “I got to play around with the proof and the flavors. With bourbon, you don’t have so much creative freedom, so it’s been a completely different process.”

Tropical has a full lineup of traditional house-made spirits, too, used in the bar’s cocktails so they can legally sell mixed drinks. They include a quintuple-distilled vodka, a Florida sugarcane rum, and a Florida botanical infused gin with hibiscus and other local flora. Traditional tequila drinks will be made with Allapattah Agave, an alligator-themed imported agave spirit.

They’ll also be pouring Twin-P Whiskey, named after co-owners Mike and Maurkice Pouncey. The blended whiskey is a tribute to the twins, boasting a bottle with hidden homages to the Florida Gators, the Dolphins, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Currently, Tropical Distillers’ spirits are produced elsewhere in Florida, but once the distillery opens everything will be produced in Miami. They’ll also be canning the bar’s original cocktails.

In addition to offering tours, Tropical Distillers will be a cruise ship excursion for passengers departing from Miami. And while the bar, tasting room, and patio will be open to the public most hours, some hours will be reserved for distillery tour guests. So, on your first visit, booking the tour is the move.

Tropical Distillers brings yet another world-class asset to our booming city, adding one of the few in-city amenities we were still lacking and offering another attraction to quickly-gentrifying Allapattah. “We just got the World Cup, we got Formula One, all Miami didn’t have was a distillery,” Sklar says, from his office above the production floor. “Now we can check that box, too.”

The distillery is at 2141 NW 10th Ave., and you’ll find ample parking between the surrounding streets and the onsite parking lot. Though if you’re looking to up the Miami experience another notch, take the Metrorail to the Santa Clara station then take a scenic, ten-minute stroll to the distillery through local vegetable wholesalers.

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Matt Meltzer is a Miami-based contributor for Thrillist, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, former pageant judge in the Miss Florida America system, and past contributor to Cosmopolitan
magazine. Matt graduated with a BBA from University of Miami and holds a master’s in journalism from the University of Florida. He currently lives in Miami with his Betta fish, Bob.