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 Miami 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
Where else can you order deviled eggs, a rum old fashioned and dance the night away to '90s hip-hop? Whatever you're feeling, Sweet Liberty is the place to pursue it (and not just because a “purse happiness” sign hangs boldly on the wall). The so-called bartender's bar is both a critical success and a neighborhood favorite. The reason? It’s got something for everyone. Pop in on a Saturday night to find people of all ages dancing to old-school tunes, singing along to the live band (which changes often) or tucked away in a booth enjoying a beer. When it comes to cocktails, award-winning bartender John Lermayer’s drink menu is equal parts innovation and celebration of 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. Daily happy hour (4–7pm) features $5 cocktails and $.75 oysters, plus other bites—a steal for a good time in an area known for big-name clubs and white-linen dining.
Not all New York transplants succeed in the Magic City, but this cult-favorite has made quite the impression since teasing us with a pop-up bar during last year's Art Basel and opening a permanent location early this year in the Washington Park Hotel. Loyal patrons of the perpetually packed West Village location can rest easy knowing their favorite cocktails (think the Billionaire Cocktail and seasonal smashes) and hand-cut steak tartare are all available in the 305. The best part? They're whipped up by the same spirit-obsessed guys who founded the original. Talk about quality control. Decidedly more Miami are Employees Only's late-night offerings, which includes a menu of gourmet bites from 1–4am (like those delicious bone marrow poppers you can never just have one of). Don't miss the psychic on your way out—she's as legit as the cocktails.
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. 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 Life by Stereo, a spicy riff on a Paloma made with Olmeca Altos Tequila, Ancho Verde, fresh grapefruit and an herb cordial.
Few names mean as much to the Miami cocktail community as Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta, the forward-thinking mixologists behind Broken Shaker. The former pop-up bar established a permanent home at Freehand Miami, an innovative hostel concept, and quickly became the hottest bar in town thanks to a masterfully curated and constantly shifting roster of cocktails. If it’s on the menu, order it. Just about every concoction is a home run. Drinks are all handcrafted with fresh-pressed ingredients and infusions made from a variety of herbs and spices, some picked by the bartenders themselves at the Shaker’s own garden. Since the bar’s founding in 2012, cocktail culture has become massive in Miami. But there’s still only one Broken Shaker.
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.
It’s not uncommon to see a line forming downstairs at EAST, Miami to ride the elevator up 40 flights to Sugar. Remain patient and you’ll be rewarded with 360-views of the city and surrounding waterways, Asian-themed cocktails (like the Sweet Life, a sugar-y cocktail blended with Thai iced tea, lemon and whiskey) and a place that feels more like a secluded, storybook garden than a bar.
El Patio is unlike anything in Wynwood—which, considering the depth of options in the trendy art district, is high praise. The mostly outdoor bar manages to be intriguing enough for visiting tourists, while maintaining a loyal following of locals. It’s a Latin concept— Colombian, specifically—and shows its influence everywhere you turn. Certain furniture was actually shipped over from Colombia, the homeland of co-owner Nicolas Hoyos, which gives the bar a funky abuela vibe, and resident DJ, Mr. Pauer, curates a masterful playlist of old school Latin, reggae, electro, and everything in between to guarantee hips never stop shaking. Add to all that one of Wynwood’s best happy hours (featuring $1 beers and $4 cocktails) and you’ve got a place worth showing up early and staying late.
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.
The sign out front says it all: air conditioning, beer and cocktails. What more could you want in perpetually hot Miami? Perhaps weekly karaoke or a variety of local brews on tap? Don't forget the cocktails too (especially the Moscow mule). After a couple of those, walk outside and grab a slice from Gramps own tiny restaurant, Pizza Tropical. Take your pizza and cocktail and grab a seat in Gramps Florida-chic backyard. You’ll quickly realize why this Wynwood bar is so popular.
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.