Miami bartenders are busy chipping away at fresh blocks of ice and old stereotypes. The cocktail scene in Miami has hit it big, attracting connoisseurs from near and far and generating attention from national media. Miami.com's coverage of the movement over the past year and a half shows an uptick in innovation and passion by the trade as well as a subsequent thirst for more from the general public. Locals and tourists are now crossing paths at the cocktail bar – not at the ultra lounge – sharing an imaginative drink, and then spreading the gospel. Miami’s cocktail culture has arrived.
Here’s a list of the newest cocktails to hit the menus this season. Not surprisingly, many are for discerning late-night imbibers, who demand quality at all times.
Black Magic at The Cypress Room
A date with Michael Schwartz’s elegant American cuisine calls for stunning cocktails in aesthetic and taste. Ryan Goodspeed’s immense “Beverage Book” will help you find the perfect match for your mood and meal at the new Design District restaurant. Looking for a jolt back to reality after savoring the last bite of the chef’s remarkable antelope dish? Order the “Black Magic.” It’s a rich, creamy, and bitter cocktail reminiscent of Irish Coffee with rum instead of whiskey. The coffee comes straight from Wynwood and is quite strong. The fresh cream balances its bitterness with the help of Mandarine Napoleon, a luxurious Cognac-based liqueur, and plays well with the rum’s coconut and vanilla notes. Goodspeed suggests ordering Hedy Goldsmith’s “Chocolate” dessert (yuzu, ginger, coconut, Thai basil) as well, if you dare.
2 oz. Blackwell Rum
1 ½ oz. Panther Cold Brew
3 - 4 oz. fresh whipped Mandarine Napoleon vanilla bean cream
Fresh cream recipe:
1 quart of heavy cream
2 tbsp. sugar
2 oz. Mandarine Napoleon
2 vanilla beans cut and scooped
Whip all ingredients in a mixing bowl until cream begins to thicken. Cream should be easy to pour and not stiff. Serve cocktail over cold sphere of ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with small mint top.
The Cypress Room, 3620 NE 2nd Ave., Miami; Bar stays open late Thurs. – Sat. until 1 a.m.
Piña Colada at The Regent Cocktail Club
This is not your typical frozen South Beach drink. In fact, a bartender who has competed in countless tiki cocktail competitions around the world makes this version of the quintessential summer refreshment. John Lermayer, head bartender for LDV Hospitality’s stunning bar inside the Gale Hotel, uses classic ingredients along with two rums as a variation of the old school recipe, which originally called for one Puerto Rican brand of rum that no longer exists. Now, Lermayer splits the recipe between spiced rum to give it a kick and aged Jamaican rum to add boldness and a longer finish. The coconut cream is said to have inspired the invention of the “Piña Colada,” but as is the case with most recipes, its provenance is unclear. There’s no argument that the coconut cream is what gives this tropical drink the thickness and sweetness everyone adores. The origin of this recipe and many others will make for a lively debate at the classy Regent where it’s advised to leave your Hawaiian shirt by the pool.
1 oz. unsweetened coconut milk
1 oz. Coco López coconut cream
1 oz. spiced rum
1 oz. aged rum
4 pineapple chunks about twice the size of dice
2 cups ice
Build directly in blender in the order of ingredients. Add 2 cups of ice and blend for 40 seconds. Pour into a tall Pilsner glass if a hallowed out pineapple is not available. Garnish with a tiki umbrella and a fuzzy flamingo: “they just make people happy!”
The Regent Cocktail Club at The Gale Hotel, 1690 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; Bar stays open late.
Cucumber Collins at Living Room
Motivated by the balminess of summer, mixologist Scott Beattie elevates the classic Collins with organic ingredients from a community farm in Homestead. The refreshing drink is filled with edible components like sliced cucumbers and berries from Verde Gardens. By pickling these ingredients (with rice wine vinegar, mirin, filtered sake, sugar), Beattie adds subtle undertones and flavor to the traditional cocktail, amplifying the overall experience and balancing what can be a fairly sugary drink.
1 ½ oz. Square One Cucumber Vodka
½ oz. lemon juice
¼ oz. yuzu juice
½ oz. simple syrup
1 oz. seltzer
Fresh and pickled cucumber slices, pickled blueberries
Combine the vodka, juice and syrup in a mixing glass and stir. Add the blueberries and enough ice to fill mixing glass. Cover and shake a few times. Fill tall Collins glass with ice. Gently slide cucumber down sides of the glass. Pour drink in glass. Garnish with edible flower and serve.
Living Room at The W South Beach, 2201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; Bar stays open till 2 a.m.
La Tacubaya at The Corner
Aubrey Russell introduces a new specialty cocktail list this month at the bar that defies all odds in downtown Miami. The highlight is a beautiful tequila drink inspired by Russell’s “former life” in Mexico (the name means “where the water is from”). In Mexico City, he used the water of hibiscus plants with rum and tequila at his bar and admits, “It was by far the most popular drink we ever served.” The combination stuck with him. After experimenting with the basic ingredients, he realized that a small dose of Chartreuse opened up the flavors even more. Now, he makes the hibiscus water at The Corner from dried flowers purchased at the Redland’s Farmers Market in Homestead. Expect a big bite from the Ocho and the habanero bitters – both are rather spicy – along with a herbaceous tinge from the Chartreuse.
2 oz. Ocho Plata
½ oz. Chartreuse (green)
½ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ oz. agave
¾ oz. hibiscus water
1 dash habanero bitters
Build ingredients. Shake. Strain over rocks. Top with bitters. Add lime wheel for garnish.
The Corner, 1035 N. Miami Ave., Miami; Bar stays open till 5 a.m. on weeknights and 8 a.m. on weekends.
Dirty Bird at Blackbird Ordinary
The “Dirty Bird” is Fraser Hamilton’s twist on a classic Pisco Sour featuring an artistic image of the venue’s bird atop a layer of airy foam. Hamilton sprays the hibiscus bitters from an atomizer (a small canister traditionally used for martini rinses) that dispenses liquid with a pump through a stencil of Blackbird’s logo. Hamilton suggests having fun with stencils at home: “It’s easy to make your own stencil for any occasion and decorate your cocktails, especially if you’re working with foam.” The flowery hibiscus bitters finish off the crisp citrus and floral notes of the Chilean Kappa Pisco that are complemented by the sweetness and viscosity of the Filthy Black Cherry syrup. The syrup, which comes from a bottle of premium cocktail cherries used for garnishes, introduces a thickness that enriches the texture of the cocktail and morphs it into a more full-bodied version of the conventional Pisco Sour.
2 oz. Kappa Pisco
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
¾ oz. Filthy Black Cherry syrup
1 egg white
Combine ingredients, shake without ice until the egg whites produce foam. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with cocktail bitters sprayed through a fun stencil.
Blackbird Ordinary, 729 SW 1st Ave., Miami; Bar stays open till 5 a.m.
Red Ginger at Radio Bar
Rush to Radio Bar for a seasonal impression of the Dark & Stormy this month. Fresh strawberries, which are nearly out of season in Florida, brighten up the rum cocktail. It’s a highbrow match for any of the lowbrow munchies on the new “snack bar” menu, including hot dogs, cheesy nachos, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Initially a pop-up, Radio is now a permanent hot spot under the auspices of Menin Hotels (Gale Hotel) and Craig Schoettler, a James Beard Award nominee, formerly of the acclaimed Aviary in Chicago. If you arrive after 11 p.m. for your “Red Ginger,” which is likely, enter through the door east of the bar. Expect to find suits, skateboards, and slinky dresses. It’s a place where you could actually get away with wearing the abovementioned Hawaiian ensemble -- ironically, of course.
2 oz. rum
¾ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
½ oz. housemade simple syrup
1 fresh strawberry
4 fresh mint leaves
Muddle the strawberry and mint with simple syrup. Add lime juice and rum. Lightly shake. Pour contents into glass, top with ginger beer and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
Radio Bar, 814 1st St., Miami Beach; bar stays open till 5 a.m.
Oyster and Vodka Are Up To No Good at The Local House
(Photo: Bill Kearney)
This martini is a good reason to reconnect with Ocean Dr. this summer. It’s dry, for the most part, with a lovely sweetness kicking in at the finish thanks to Lillet, a French fortified wine. What’s more, there’s a voluptuous oyster in the glass, which pairs nicely with all of the oysters on the side. The ambiance inside The Local House is Hamptons-esque, intimate, and essentially carb-free with a primary focus on fresh seafood. This goes without saying, but oyster lovers need not apply.
2 ½ oz. Grey Goose
½ oz. Lillet
½ oz. dry vermouth
A touch of oyster juice, poured fresh from the shell
2 lemon twists
Stir, stir, stir. Strain into a martini glass.
Pre-marinate two oysters in Tabasco, serve one on a skewer and one on the side in the half shell. Take a sip, eat an oyster; take a sip, eat an oyster.
The Local House, 400 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach.
Big Bison at The Bazaar by José Andrés
The “Big Bison” is one of the most invigorating cocktails on the new summer menu at The Bazaar. It’s light enough to take you through the kaleidoscope of flavors linked to a meal by José Andrés. Juan Coronado, beverage director for Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup, is the mastermind behind the new offerings and he’s particularly excited about the fennel in this cocktail: “The purpose is to bring out the botanical aspects. Fennel seeds are refreshing and they add exotic layers that are unexpected.” The slight spice from the seeds (think anise) is offset by the neutralizing effect of the cucumber and the elegant Orange Blossom Water, a fragrance that hits the nose as soon as your lips reach the glass.
2 oz Bison Grass Vodka
1 oz Fennel Seed Syrup
1 oz Lemon
3 cucumber wheels
A mist of Orange Blossom Water
In a cocktail shaker, macerate (soften) 3 cucumber wheels until juice and essence is extracted. Add rest of the ingredients. Fill with ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a martini glass. Garnish with bison grass and cucumber.
The Bazaar by José Andrés at SLS Hotel South Beach, 1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; Bar closes at 1 a.m. Thurs. – Sat.
Blackberry Molecular Margarita at Tongue & Cheek
At the new Tongue & Cheek restaurant by Chef Jamie DeRosa, the bartenders will wow you with cutting-edge techniques that make cocktails even more gratifying. The mission is to deconstruct classics and then rebuild them with a customized flair. This elaborate margarita is the perfect representative with its slushy consistency and potency. It’s expensive because nitro-freezing cocktails forces the bartender to increase the proportions of the recipe. Think of it as double the fun. T&C’s beverage manager, Josh Morrow, suggests coming in for “Mexican Mondays” – a good night to pair the margarita with a $10 meal, featuring pork carnitas, yellow rice, tomato-avocado salad and flan.
4 oz. Milargo Silver Tequila
2 oz. raspberry simple syrup
4 oz. freshly squeezed Florida orange juice
4 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
4 oz. fresh lime juice
Garnish: Nitro-frozen crushed blackberries
First, the blackberries need to be frozen with liquid nitrogen and crushed into frozen blackberry pieces and put in the freezer for the garnish. The cocktail is started by muddling 4 blackberries in a pint glass. The base liquor, Milagro Silver Tequila, is added to to the pint glass along with the raspberry simple syrup, orange juice, grapefruit juice, and lime juice. The mixture is dry shaken in order to properly mix the ingredients then double strained into a Boston Shaker. Food grade liquid nitrogen is then poured into our nitrogen mixing bowl, followed by the strained cocktail. The cocktail is frozen by the liquid nitrogen and it must be stirred to keep it from freezing totally. More liquid nitrogen can be added to get desired consistency. The frozen cocktail is the scooped out of the nitro-bowl, put into a rocks glass, garnished with the nitro-frozen blackberries and then served in with an over-sized straw for easy consumption.
Tongue & Cheek, 431 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.
Gin Spritz at Makoto Bal Harbour
Lunch at Makoto can be so epic, you’ll want to block off an afternoon for it. The flavors of the original sauces and the fresh fish are so pronounced; it makes sense to keep it light with your adult beverage as you embark on a culinary adventure. Start with Emily Aguilar’s “Gin Spritz,” a feminine cocktail that’s not on the permanent menu yet, featuring Hendrick’s Gin, freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice, Aperol and soda. It’s a great match for the unique sashimi offerings (think live scallops, orange clams, and jackfish), shishito peppers, and tuna tataki.
1 oz. Hendrick's Gin
1 oz. Aperol
2 oz. freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice
Shake on ice in a mixing glass. Serve over ice in wine glass. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.
Makoto, 9700 Collins Ave., Miami Beach.
Galena Mosovich is the lead writer for cocktail culture for Miami.com and The Miami Herald.