The flashy, Las Vegas-style clubs in Miami may get most of the attention in the Miami nightlife headlines, but there are plenty of other great places to grab a drink in the city. The best bars in Miami run the gamut from rooftop bars with stunning views to top-notch cocktail dens helmed by award-winning mixologists. The best part? They don’t all require patrons to don flashy designer duds nor pay a cover charge just to pass through the velvet ropes.
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The best bars in Miami
Indulge your sense of nostalgia and love for ‘80s kitsch at this MiMO gem, injecting new life into the former Magnum Lounge space—home to Miami’s oldest bar. Much of what’s left and all of what’s been added seems frozen in time, harkening back to decades when David Bowie ruled, Pac-Man not Candy Crush was what you did to blow off your friends and music came from a jukebox. The result is the collective efforts of Broken Shaker/Bar Lab's Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi and the Workshop Collective's Jourdan Binder, plus Vagabond chef Alex Chang, who the guys enlisted to helm the eccentric bar menu (think cool ranch beef crackling and French escargot). The cocktails menu is in keeping with the old-school theme, striking a balance between classics, like the Sex on the Beach and new favorites, such as the rum-based Nobody Puts Baby In a Corner.
Everything old is new again at this classic cocktail bar. Cordial mixologists—waistcoats and all—pour deliciously authentic drinks in a space that feels worlds away from the hustle of South Beach, yet is in the heart of it all. The lounge’s retro stylings, complete with leather banquettes, live jazz and a side patio for cigar smoking and dominoes, make it feel as if the Rat Pack could walk through the door at any moment.
Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta are the forward-thinking mixologists behind The Broken Shaker, a popular pop-up bar that established a permanent home at the Freehand, an innovative hostel concept. As the name indicates, cocktails are the thing here, and the menu changes almost daily, as drinks are all handcrafted with fresh-pressed ingredients and infusions made from a variety of herbs and spices, picked by the bartenders themselves.
Today’s Ball & Chain is a recreation of a 1930s hotspot that once occupied the same space and welcomed jazz superstars like Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Chet Baker to its stage. We recommend sampling a few Cuban-inspired cocktails: the Mojito Criollo (made the classic way with the mint leaves left intact for enhanced aroma, and more sugar), the Cañita (white rum, lime, house-made honey syrup, guarapo or sugarcane juice, sugarcane stick) and the Pastelito Daiquiri (pastelito-infused aged rum, lime, simple syrup, and a side of pastelitos or guava pastries). Expect live jazz on weeknights and a wild Cuban fiesta, La Pachanga, on Saturday nights when salsa dancers take to the bar.
Though hard to find, Sweet Liberty warrants the extra sleuthing to sip handcrafted creations by award-winning bartender John Lermayer. He’s conceived a menu comprising equal parts innovation and deference to the classics with a few minor twists, like what you’ll find in the Black Salt Sour—which takes its name from the unusual black salt used for garnishing. Happy hour is a hit with $5 cocktails, $.75 oysters and cool rock tunes, a steal for a good time in an area known for big-name clubs and white-linen dining.
MO Bar and Lounge in the Mandarin Oriental is the most elegant bar in town: The cocktails are refined and the panoramic view of Brickell’s skyline is extraordinary. And while it certainly caters to glamorous connoisseurs, the bar also manages to remain accessible to curious newcomers yearning for a taste of the city’s cocktail scene. The bartenders know their stuff and they like talking, an unexpected treat for bar-goers who want a meaningful conversation about what they’re drinking and why it’s so special. For limitless chatter, order a quintessential island treat by way of the legendary Hemingway Daiquiri, a hand-shaken union of rum, Maraschino liqueur, fresh grapefruit and lime juice.
If drinking tequila and/or whiskey into the wee hours is your idea of a great night out, welcome home. Truth be told, there’s nothing ordinary about Blackbird; in a town full of blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em bars, this one’s got a distinct personality. And staying power too. Take your libations straight up or in a handcrafted cocktail. The signature Blackbird—a mix of sweet tea vodka, fresh lemonade and blackberries served on the rocks—is the perfect antidote to the sizzling south Florida sun.
This dark corner bar is a far cry from its outrageous neighbors in downtown Miami’s nightclub district, though it’s become a popular spot pre or post E11even, the adjacent 24-hour strip club. Step inside Miami’s version of a saloon for a closer look at the impressive back bar. Craving a scotch from way up top? No problem. The barkeeps here use a wooden ladder to navigate the extensive collection of spirits (a solid list of craft beers and wines is also available). Cocktails like the La Tacubaya (tequila, Green Chartreuse, lime juice, hibiscus, agave syrup and habanero bitters) are made with the freshest ingredients. Appreciative locals pack the bar and sidewalk every night of the week, though Tuesdays attract an especially hipster-heavy crowd—perhaps it’s the live jazz? Surviving the late-night revelry is more likely if you fuel up on tasty bar bites.
Sick of flashy martinis? Seek salvation in this hole-in-the-wall-turned-microbrewery, which offers rare European imports plus several own-made beers. Luckily, it didn’t lose its classic dive-bar soul in the conversion process—or the dartboard. It’s a fine place to meet the locals, and even better when preceded by a meal at Southern food star Yardbird right next door.
On the more residential side of South Beach—far removed from the main tourist and nightclub drag—Foxhole Bar means it when it refers to itself as an "upscale locals’ joint." This late-night hotspot is still jumping as the sun starts to rise, with Miamians jockeying for position among the plush banquettes or playing darts and pool. At the beginning of the night, early birds can take advantage of the weekday happy hour (5-9pm) offering two-for-one drinks and bar bite specials from sister property Drunken Dragon.