A cocktail is not just a cocktail anymore. It’s evolved into an art form, requiring a triple-threat combination of fresh ingredients, killer presentation and a certain savior-faire.
In Miami, handcrafted cocktails are afforded paramount attention as a trend of swanky lounges and mysterious speakeasies sweeps the city. Those premixed, powdered punches aren’t going to cut it anymore.
As in the culinary world, bartenders are using fresh and handmade approaches, like the farm-to-table concept, when inventing alcoholic concoctions. Handcrafted cocktails contain specialty ingredients, have a longer prep time and typically cost more, but connoisseurs say the resulting quality makes all the difference.
Whether you’re looking for a great happy hour or late-night drink specials, here are five cocktail lounges that are reshaping Miami’s nightlife scene:
The Broken Shaker is a cocktail lounge located at Freehand Miami, an indie, upscale hostel that is changing the way the younger crowd travels and socializes in Miami Beach. The masterminds behind the Bar Lab concept, Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta, are growing basil, lavender and peppermint in the courtyard and using the herbs to make some of the best handcrafted cocktails you’ll ever taste.
An expert behind the bar, Gui Jaroschy designed a special drink just for me, so I must admit that I am in love with this place. Among other delicious ingredients, he used lychee, grown in Homestead. You’ll love the laid back atmosphere in the garden courtyard, where you can sit with friends and enjoy the gorgeous Florida weather, while nibbling on delicious flat bread and drinking a killer cocktail that they’ll design especially for you. The Broken Shaker must be number one on your list of places to visit.
If You Go: The Broken Shaker is located at 2727 Indian Creek Dr. Cocktails start at $11 (beer for $3) and the bar is open from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m.
Radio Bar is the place to go for more of a lounge-style, hip local’s scene. Located in the trendy SoFi neighborhood (area South of Fifth Street to South Pointe Park), Radio Bar is easy to spot from afar. Because well, there’s a giant, 600-foot radio tower that shoots out from the courtyard behind the bar. Once inside, Radio Bar’s ambiance is warm and friendly with kitschy decor, mix-and-matched bar stools and a pool table. It’s a great spot to enjoy a few drinks and dance to eclectic tunes.
I chatted with the head bartender Teddy Collins, who knows a thing or two about inventing the ultimate craft cocktail. “It’s all about using the freshest ingredients,” he said as he threw together a watermelon and bitters concoction for me. When I asked Teddy what makes Radio Bar different than most places in South Beach, he said that it’s all about the people. “Everyone drops their egos at the door. The energy here is amazing.”
If You Go: Radio Bar is located at 814 1st Street. The main entrance is located on 1st Street, but the back entryway east of the bar is recommended as a courtesy to residents after 11 p.m.
Blackbird Ordinary’s delectable “Cocktail Program” is crafted by Fraser Hamilton, who uses homegrown produce, locally sourced fresh ingredients, daily squeezed juices, properly paired ice, and the finest spirits. This Brickell bar grows their own fruit and a variety of spices.
If You Go: Blackbird Ordinary is located at 729 SW 1st Ave. Cocktails start at $8 and the bar is open from 3 p.m. until 5 a.m.
Foxhole is hard to find, but well worth the hunt. Go to the alley between Alton Road and West Avenue, look for the lamp and pretend you’re back in the days of Prohibition, slyly sneaking your way into a speakeasy. There are no signs to help guide you, so good luck. They serve both creative cocktails and craft beers, seven days a week.
If You Go: Foxhole is located at 1426-A 14th Court. Cocktails start at $10 and the bar is open from 5 p.m. until 5 a.m.
The Corner is a bar located, appropriately, on a corner in downtown Miami, but don’t let appearances fool you. Once inside, head bartender Aubrey Russell will whip you up one of his delicious concoctions and you won’t be disappointed.
If You Go: The Corner is located at 1035 N. Miami Ave. Cocktails start at $10 and the bar is open from 4 p.m. until 5 a.m.
Insider Tip: For help planning your trip to Miami, check out MiamiAndBeaches.com.
This story also published on VisitFlorida.com.