By Dinkinish O'Connor
In a city with acrobatic bartenders, hot pink cocktails and 10-foot-tall garnishes, one often wonders where the spirit has gone. How can the genteel Scotch-and-soda survive in a sea of syrupy liqueurs?
From drinks served neat in snifters to the refreshing clink-clink of cocktails that require ice and a maximum of three ingredients, Miami boasts an eclectic mix of bars with drink menus your grandfather (and you, too) could appreciate.
At The Forge in Miami Beach, the top-shelf spirit menu conjures images of Humphrey Bogart in a cocked Stetson smoking a cigarette and sipping Scotch (a fitting image: Bogey's last words are rumored to have been, "I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis.")
The Mediterranean-style courtyard is a perfect place to savor shots of top-shelf spirits served in crystal tumblers and classic snifters. The specialty Scotch selection includes shots of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, ($50) and an 18-year-old Chivas Regal ($18). Single-malt labels include a 12-year old Glenfiddich ($15).
Take in celebrity sightings (Shaq, Jay-Z and Beyonce have been spotted) at the Soul Kitchen Sunday party while sipping top-shelf cognacs including Courvoisier XO ($15 a shot); Hennessey Richard ($150 a shot) and Remy Martin Louis XIII ($150 a shot or $3,000 for a bottle).
The bar opens at 6:30 p.m. daily, and stays open til 2 or 5 a.m., depending on the night.
The Forge; 432 W. 41st St., Miami Beach; 305-538-8533.
Mac's Club Deuce is a no-nonsense, smoky South Beach refuge for swearing bartenders and blue-collar workers. Sixty-year-old bartender Carol Honigmann has worked at the Deuce for 30 years and recalls making old-school cocktails like the Sidecar -- a mix of brandy, lemon and, back in the day, simple syrup instead of the sour mix used today.
"We served Stingers, " Honigmann explains in a raspy voice, "a mix of brandy and crème de menthe and Russian Roulettes, back in those days, but now I can appreciate the flavored vodkas, too."
This South Beach relic serves top-shelf Manhattans for $9 and Brandy Alexanders (a blend of brandy, crème de cocoa, and cream or milk) for $7. Happy hour starts at 8 a.m. (really) and ends at 7 p.m., and the bar has charming touches like a vintage cigarette vending machine and an old, tattered menu behind the bar that showcases a Monte Cristo sandwich for 75 cents.
Mac's Club Deuce; 222 14th St., South Beach; 305-531-6200.
With lush red-velvet drapes, romantic Italian Renaissance-inspired furniture and a cowhide rug, the swanky décor at Amendment XXI -- a lounge in Miami's Design District -- is reminiscent of a 1930s Harlem speakeasy.
"A couple years ago there was no place in The District where you could just have a drink, " says owner Peronne Pet. "There were just wine bars."
At Amendment XXI, drink categories include martinis (all $10), bottled beers and spirit bottles. Try the classic Cosmopolitan ($10), a mix of Ketel One Citroen, Cointreau and cranberry juice with a squeeze of lime and lemon garnished with a twist of lemon.
Among the spirit bottles are Myers Dark Rum, Canadian Club, Makers Mark, Southern Comfort and Patrón Añejo, all of which are priced in the $135 to $150 range.
Starving artists can take in the upper Design District vibe -- indie-rock, mellow house, reggae and neo-soul play in the background -- while enjoying the happy hour prices from 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 5-8 p.m. Fridays, when premium drinks like rum and coke are $5 while beers and wine are $3 each. Local singer-songwriter Jesse Jackson performs on Tuesday nights.
Amendment XXI Lounge; 190 NE 46th St., Miami; 305-571-7200.
Carpaccio in Bal Harbour doesn't do happy hour, but does offer a variety of old-school drinks from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Saturday.
Enzo Papandrea, who has tended bar at Carpaccio for 10 years, serves classics including the Rusty Nail ($8), a blend of scotch and Drambuie; Johnny Walker Black label scotch and soda ($9); Stoli Elite Martini ($12); and Bombay Sapphire Gin and Tonic ($8).
The bar list also offers shots of cognac including Remy Martin 1738 ($15 a shot), and Scotch, such as a 21-year-old Chivas "Royal Salute" ($21).
While sipping at the green onyx bar embellished with sprawling floral bouquets, guests can take in Carpaccio's cast of characters, a group seemigly perfect for a reality TV show -- think a blend of Breakfast at Tiffany's and Scarface meets The Girls Next Door.
Carpaccio; in Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour; 305-867-7777.
Celebrating the post-Prohibition era at Amendment XXI in Miami. Photo: David Heischrek/for Miami.com