Pubbelly restaurants craft creative cocktails without a full liquor license

The Repubblica and Capri Classic cocktails at Macchialina

The Pubbelly boys are about more than just innovative gastro bites. The team also gets creative when it comes to drinks. With this summer’s addition of an impressive Italian eatery, the South Beach-based empire now encompasses flavors from East to West. What’s surprising is that three out of their four spots – Macchialina, Pubbelly, and Pubbelly Sushi – serve cocktails without a full liquor license.

At Macchialina, where chef Michael Pirolo cranks out some of the most legit Italian dishes this side of the Tuscan sun, the cocktail menu shines. It’s simple, yet sophisticated. With just a beer and wine license on record, Pirolo’s partner and general manager, Jennifer Chaefsky, managed to feature six signature cocktails with legendary Italian ingredients like Lambrusco (red sparkling wine), Cocchi Americano (fortified/aperitif wine), and Amaro (liqueur).

“We wanted the drinks to complement the food. More importantly, they’re alcoholic, but not too boozy,” said Chaefsky. “We had to be very clever with our beer and wine license and make the best of it. So, we set out to do something really cool.”

The “Capri Classic” is indeed very cool. A refreshing combination of Cocchi Americano, cucumber and mint (think Italian mojito); the drink embodies the glamour of the island and makes a good start to any meal at Macchialina. What makes it so special is the Cocchi Americano, which Chaefsky says was on backorder for a while. The classic aperitif wine has a small addition of alcohol bittered with spices and herbs like the Artemisia flower and orange peel. Consider starting your meal with a tall glass of this and the Arancini (magical rice balls).

Another highlight is similar to a Clover Club, but without the gin. The “Repubblica” mixes oranges, Dolin Blanc (elegant vermouth), and tasty tiki bitters to make a nice accessory to Pirolo’s pasta dishes and pizzas.

At the more established Pubbelly spots on Miami Beach, sake cocktails rule. Both Pubbelly and Pubbelly Sushi embrace Sabe Sake, a product brewed in Japan, fortified with vodka in the Netherlands, and then recasked and bottled.

“The alcohol content is much higher than regular sake (48 proof) and it permits us to make proper cocktails while still imparting the taste of sake,” said Andreas Schreiner, founding partner and managing director of Pubbelly Restaurant Group. “Because it’s a ‘brewed spirit,’ it’s allowed to be sold by establishments with a license for beer and wine consumption only.”

At Pubbelly Sushi, we recommend sitting at the bar for a “Spicy Piña” with an order of Shishito Peppers and a Snow Crab Roll with goma soy paper, warm snowcrab, ponzu, and minty butter. The Spicy Piña is what Schreiner likes to call a “vodkasake cocktail,” a favorite on the menu with muddled jalapenos, fresh pineapple, yuzu and ginger syrup.

There are five additional vodkasake cocktails to try at Pubbelly Sushi and three exotic choices at Pubbelly, including the “La Guagua,” which is a fusion of guava, lime and basil that helps equalize some of the heavier dishes on the menu.

– Galena Mosovich is the lead writer for cocktail culture for


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