March 2020: In honor of our most recent print magazine (which you can read online here), we’ve overhauled this guy to include the absolute best bars in the city right now. We’ve kept our favorite standbys (think Sweet Liberty and Gramps), added a few newbies, like tiki temples Swizzle and Esotico, and threw in some high-low options, like Mac’s and Le Sirenuse. There’s something on this list for every type of drinker. Cheers, folks!
Remember when the only cocktail anyone thought to order in Miami was a mojito? Those dark days are long gone. Over the past decade, star bartenders have emerged to introduce true mixology to the Magic City. One drink at a time, we went from enjoying well-and-soda mixes at our neighborhood spot to having the option of 10-ingredient tipples at a Miami speakeasy. While we still have our beloved dive bars and offbeat trailblazers, we’ve added new up-market rooftops and low-key spaces that are continuing the tradition of spirit-filled innovation. Thirsty yet? Here’s where to find the best bars in Miami, from Wynwood to South Beach to Little Havana.
Drank somewhere on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDrinkList. You can also find out more about how Time Out makes recommendations and reviews bars here.
Best bars in Miami
This is the bar that showed Miami just how wonderful craft cocktails can be. Started by consulting agency Bar Lab, the tropical spot operates at the Freehand Miami Beach. Shaded by palm trees, bordered by a pool and flush with refreshing umbrella drinks, it’s the kind of place that’s recommended by travel guides for a taste of the laid-back Miami lifestyle. Seasonally driven beverages—available as giant punch bowls—are what make the Shaker shine.
Drink this: Dr. Green Thumb
Ranked on the World’s 50 Best Bars’ 2018 list, Sweet Liberty has the rare distinction of being a local spot, an industry hangout and a tourist fave. There’s something for everyone in the spacious bar, whether it’s an elegant $14 martini, 95¢ oysters and $5 rosé at happy hour or a beer and a shot after midnight. It’s a family affair, as most of the friendly staff has been around since Day One, and there’s always some kind of live music on the weekends to get you on your feet. Like the neon PURSUE HAPPINESS sign that hangs on the wall—the maxim of the bar’s late co-owner, John Lermayer—Sweet Liberty is always a good time.
Drink this: Tommy’s Margarita
Put on your fancy pants, people. The stunning, emerald-green bar at this Amalfi import unapologetically embraces the finer things in life, like gilded bellini carts and expertly mixed cocktails that will set you back at least one Jackson (or a few, if you order the $65 Frank Sinatra champagne cocktail). Not many places give such attention to detail, and everything that hits the glass has been crafted in-house, from the juices and the syrups to the bitters and the tinctures. Cheers to la dolce vita—and the Taco Bell you’ll be eating all week to pay for your round of drinks at this truly sublime place.
Drink this: Negroni
Anthony Bourdain claimed this iconic dive as his ultimate Miami retreat, and he’s not alone. After more than 50 years in the
business, this South Beach institution still packs in the locals with an impossible-to-beat BOGO happy hour that runs every day from 8am (seriously) to 7pm. You’ll want to bring cash to the no-frills spot, where smoking is still allowed but credit cards are not.
Drink this: Pabst Blue Ribbon
Decked out in Americana, this saloon’s atmosphere is casual, but the beverage program is working overtime, proffering microbrews, craft cocktails and rare spirits. Drink up over a game of darts or pool, then relax on one of the mismatched chairs that surround the ornamental upright piano. It’s a snug, vintage vibe with better gin-and-tonics than you could ever mix up in your living room.
Drink this: Cartel Colada
It’s worth the search to find this sleek cocktail bar at the bottom of the Downtown residential building X Miami. Behind the lobby’s floor-to-ceiling curtain, co-owners Will Thompson, the bartender, and Carey Hynes, the chef (Momofuku, Per Se), tap
into something special, offering a unique selection of small batchers and artisanal spirits in an unpretentious, minimalist- modern setting. Don’t be surprised to find the bar crowded with people who are all digging into Hynes’s house-made bucatini and Parker House rolls and reaching for their large-format cocktails.
Drink this: Fino martini
Daniele Dalla Pola’s ground-floor drinking den is a jungle of banana-plant wallpaper strewn with neon signs and kooky glassware (check out the hallowed Elvis drinking vessels, vintage tiki mugs and random Hawaiian knickknacks displayed in the towering glass case). Pola’s enthusiasm for tiki culture is contagious, and he’s been collecting for decades. On your first visit, he’ll have you sipping Polynesian-style rum drinks with
as much zeal as he puts into making them. Thanks to a long list of monumental cocktails and boozy punches, it’s a fun spot for, say, a birthday party.
Drink this: Vicious Virgin #9
This nostalgia-soaked Cuban spot in Little Havana is every bit as delightful as the drinks are strong. Decorated cantinero Julio Cabrera mans the bar, slinging stiff, rum-based drinks and handcrafted mojitos that no one can resist. One of those rare places that attract locals and tourists alike, La Trova provides an electric atmosphere, live Spanish music and drink prices that won’t send you home broke. Bonus: It’s two bars in one! One the weekends, the restaurant’s back room turns into a neon-tinged, ’8os-themed party.
Drink this: Daquirí Clásico
Tucked away down a short staircase that’s off the Styles Hotel lobby, Swuzzle 2.0 continues to thrive while other South Beach bars have bitten the dust. Evoking the feel of a small wooden pirate ship, the dark, barrow space is lined with more than 150 rums. Want to get two, maybe three sheets to the wid? Be warned: The beautiful, smooth-tasting cocktails are highly potent. Cozy up with your mains squeeze at the tiny bar or nab some nearby high-tops for your girls’ night out.
Drink this: The Mamey Swizzle
This cozy, unassuming hodgepodge of vintage couches and retro Florida accents could’ve been a Golden Girls set. Drinking at the Sylvester feels like you’re hanging at the house of a buddy with excellent mixology skills and a penchant for tropical wallpaper. See the upright piano against the wall? It belonged to owner Ben Potts’s mom, so don’t spill anything on it. Pass the time playing pool, poking around the pinball machine or, if it’s late enough, dancing. Order a Negroni—they make it with Thai-coconut–infused Campari to keep you hydrated.
Drink this: The Deuce
Bar Lab may have sold off the Anderson, but the Anderson is still holding it down, with a seasonally rotating menu and an incomparable Brooklyn-meets-Vegas aesthetic in full effect. For a little Mexican flair, the El Toro Taco truck out back is ready to take your order, and the daily, 5–8pm happy hour features $5 cocktails and $3 tacos. Sounds like the ideal dinner to us.
Drink this: Escobar’s Day Off
At Gramps, people from all walks of life congregate over the city’s best Moscow Mule. The Wynwood mainstay remains a favorite partly for its never-ending string of programming: Go for a killer drag showcase, try your hand at bingo or test your knowledge on trivia night. But if you just want to get (responsibly) sozzled, Gramps has got you covered: Mondays through Wednesday, happy hour takes place twice, from 4 to 8pm and from 11pm to 1am. Genius.
Drink this: Dark & Stormy
The Little Havana bar gives Miamians what they want: culture, kitsch and handcrafted mojitos. From its early days as a jumping jazz club in the 1930s and ’40s to a pioneer in the neighborhood’s revitalization today, it remains a haven for live music—its famous pineapple-shaped outdoor stage has hosted Tito Puente Jr. and Locos Por Juana, among others— and a place to let loose and dance. Don’t know how? On Sunday nights, dancers in residence teach free salsa classes.
Drink this: Mojito
Strewn with velvet, mirrors and disco balls, the nightclub feels out of place in grungy Downtown. But some might say it’s given the neighborhood a taste of what it’s been missing: a place to dance, a bar that stays open late and a one-stop nightlife destination for people starting their evening with a solid cocktail or ending their night with a shot and a game of pool.
Drink this: French 75
This vintage bar in the MiMo district serves up solid margaritas and mojitos to a groovy, disco soundtrack. There’s usually a DJ on the decks spinning vinyl, reinforcing the throwback vibes. Hidden away from a busy part of town, the New Yorker feels like an eclectic garden in an alluring Berlin passageway. The next time you’re in need of a mental vacation, get away for an afternoon right here.
Drink this: Moscow Mule
This beer-and-wine bar’s live jazz, warm bistro lighting and clashing furnishings will charm your socks off, if the convenience of drinking here doesn’t do you in first. Roll deep with no concern for seating or check drama: Tables are first come, first served, and you pay your bill up front at the counter when you order. Couples, head to the inside area for some privacy, live music and the booze fridge. Are you with your crew and need more room? Make a beeline for the large, ramshackle yard, where you can spread out for a lively convo.
Order this: Chilled rosé
An unlikely proposition in downtown’s 24-hour club district, this corner bar somehow holds its own against E11EVEN and the other neighboring giants. The dark, smoky space is meant for folks who’d rather sip a craft cocktail huddled at one of its wooden bistro tables than drop cash on bottle service.
So, save your money and enjoy the free jazz performances and discounted drinks during the 4–8pm weekday happy hour or put your loot toward a croque-madame or a Chicago hot dog after a night of partying. The kitchen stays open until 5am, and the bites best any drunk slice you'll find in the area.
Drink this: Hot & Smokey
The massive, Sundays-only Backyard Boogie event has helped make the Wood Tavern one of Wynwood’s most consistently happening spots. Old-school hip-hop dominates the soundtrack, fueling breakdancers to duel on the patio. The whole thing is a sweaty, mostly outdoor house party. There’s a nice list of craft beers and plenty of spirits to choose from, but the drinks are pretty darn cheap for such a trendy neighborhood. And this bar keeps it real: The beverages are served in plastic cups. Things get really affordable on Tuesdays from 7 to 11pm, when tacos are free and tequila drinks are just $5.
Drink this: Any beer on tap
The city’s tallest (and buzziest) rooftop bar sits on the 40th floor of Brickell’s East, Miami, where the views and the drink prices are equally soaring. Even if you’re the one footing the bill for the Asian-inspired cocktails (the Oh You Fancy, Huh? is a whopping $23), the vantage point is hard to beat. Splurge on the tequila-based Jasmine or the vodka-soaked Lychee Blossom, then relax in one of the lounge setups amid the beautiful gardenscape.
Drink this: East of Miami
Gritty, grungy and smack-dab in the middle of a rapidly changing neighborhood, Las Rosas is not for everyone, but it’s certainly for folks who appreciate an inexpensive stiff drink and live tunes. On Sundays, the video karaoke is wild, and Tuesdays’ sexy R&B party, the Love Below, loves to get down. When concerts aren’t on the calendar, the cool crowd still piles into the Allapattah bar to play pool and tear up the dance floor.
Drink this: A customized Paloma