Ten Best Bars for Cocktails in Palm Beach County
The rhythmic beat of a cocktail shaker full of ice. The clink of glass bottles returning to the shelf. The hiss and fizz of a freshly poured drink. They're all sounds new to the Palm Beach County cocktail scene, where craft creations have been making more and more noise -- both in the news and at the bar.
Five years ago you'd be hard-pressed to find a craft anything, let alone an entire menu dedicated to drinks with muddled herbs, specialty bitters, small-batch liquor and fancy names. Yes, the cocktail scene in South Florida is growing, and behind this new era of imbibing are a few genuinely talented mix masters who are inventing fresh new ways to shake up a drink. There's talented mixologist Angela Dugan at Boca Raton's Kapow! Noodle Bar, Sean Iglehart at Sweetwater in Boynton Beach, and many more.
Here, Clean Plate Charlie lists the top spots to score a good cocktail in Palm Beach County, from rediscovered classics to lively new watering holes. Cheers!
10. Blue Martini
With locations in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton, this well known and long-time South Florida bar and club was among the first in the area to create a bible-like book of cocktails and offer a well-crafted menu. It's a national chain too. There are Blues in Bellevue, Fort Lauderdale, Kendall, Las Vegas, Brickell, Naples, Orlando, Phoenix and Tampa, so you have almost as many bars to visit as cocktails. OK, not really. There are over 40 martinis to choose from, each guaranteed elevate your spirit and tantalize the taste buds, including the signature blue martini made with Van Gogh Blue Vodka, Cointreau, Blue Curacao, sour mix and orange juice garnished with -- of all things -- a blue glow stick. Just in case you need help locating your final drink at the end of the night.
You may not expect an expertly-crafted cocktail to be served up at your local movie theater, but we're not talking any ordinary movie theater here, now are we? No, Boca Raton's iPic restaurant, Tanzy, is anything but ordinary. Here, you can find a dozen inventive takes on craft cocktails, Italian-style mojitos and a real treat, the show-stopping liquid nitrogen drinks created by master mixologist Adam Seger.
Founded by local real estate developer Mitchell Robbins and chef-restaurateur Joey Giannuzzi, Farmer's Table Boca Raton -- adjacent to the Wyndham Hotel -- is perhaps one of our favorite new additions to the fresh-fare dining movement in South Florida. To match the wholesome food coming from the kitchen, the duo has constructed a truly brilliant cocktail menu to match. All the drinks are garnished and made with locally grown produce, from the lavender in the blueberry lavender mojito, to the sage in the farmer's sage made with rye whiskey, black tea, homemade lavender-lemon syrup and celery bitters.
7. El Camino
This new addition to the food-crazed downtown Delray Beach dining district has a list of fresh-made margaritas that will make you wonder why the classic Latin cocktail always seems so boring at other bars. Your toes will curl when you get a taste of the potent árbol chilies used to make the bar's own chili rubbed mango margaritas. Sure, they still have a good old fashioned margarita made with fresh-squeezed lime juice and house sour mix made daily. But we're betting you'll be eager to sample the other seven, which use ingredients like guava, pineapple and strawberry. If margaritas aren't your thing, the bar also offers its takes on a variety of classic cocktails that range from a barrel-aged Negroni with grapefruit and sweet vermouth, to the Perfect Storm (their version of the dark and stormy). There's even a Mexican Fireball and coffee-aged tequila.
At the Rebel House in Boca Raton you're encouraged to "imbibe, ingest and indulge." And we strongly encourage you to focus on the imbibe part. Owners Mike Saperstein and Evan David, the duo behind Charm City Burgers and El Jefe Luchador, debuted this casual, chef-driven restaurant last year, and have become a smash hit for their distinctive American-style tapas. At the bar, whiskey and bourbon are the main focus with creative cocktails that highlight fresh flavors. Perhaps the best time to go would be during the restaurant's "Wake and Bake" Sunday brunch, where you can get bottomless watermelon-basil or cucumber-mint mimosas alongside a fresh Roma tomato-based Bloody Mary, or maple-syrup-infused bourbon cocktail.
The perfect dirty martini isn't just shaken, and it's certainly not stirred. It's also not too strong, or too sweet -- and definitely not too weak. No, the perfect dirty martini is made to your precise specifications, which is exactly how you'll get it at Dirty Martini, Cleve Mash's upscale, club-like martini lounge located in Downtown at the Gardens. The drink menu features five dirty versions of the classic martini, from the not-so-dirty James Bond blending Finladia vodka with Bombay gin and Lillet, to the "sweet" Marilyn Monroe made with Grey Goose, Chambord and fresh lemon juice. With so many ways to do just one cocktail, it sums up what Dirty is all about: a good selection of well-made, well-known cocktails. Need space to sip your sins away? There are three bars -- each offering a different vibe -- and live music every night of the week. It's a vibrant scene backed up by a creative cocktail list all made with fresh juices (even the olives).
If you're in the mood for a handcrafted cocktail, head to Hullabaloo in West Palm Beach. This Rodney Mayo establishment recently made the year's "best of" list for new restaurants in 2013, churning out gastropub-style Italian with precision and creativity. Likewise, the bar makes one hell of a drink. Here, everything behind the bar is the real deal. How real? You won't find a single bottle of simple syrup, and we think that says something. Instead, it's all about doing things from scratch, deployed with high-end spirits and house made liqueurs to serve flavorful, intense drinks with no artificial ingredients.
The HMF, which opened in 2012, is Palm Beach's only craft cocktail bar. Located in the Breakers, it's named for the hotel's founder, Henry Morrison Flagler, the railroad magnate and original partner of Standard Oil who helped to pioneer the development of South Florida. To keep with tradition, HMF is a sophisticated lounge meant to evoke a sense of nostalgic, high-class Americana glamour. Here, the long and elegant bar is matched with a sprawling lounge area where both locals and resort guests can drink and dine in secluded style. Styled after the speakeasy-era cocktail bar, HMF offers a full menu of signature, handcrafted drinks ranging from the traditional concoctions, to the experimental, with innovative twists that include all the usual trends like freshly made ingredients, elixirs and sodas Another unique touch you won't find at any other bar -- the cigarette girl. Inspired by the social cocktail clubs of the 50's and 60's, think of her as a sort of high-end server offering various tastings of specialty items, be it an aperitif or specialty dessert sample -- anything to enhance the cocktail party experience.
Kapow! isn't just a noodle bar -- it's also one of the county's best craft cocktail bars. Imbibers can indulge in a colorful drink selection drafted seasonally by mixologist Angela Dugan, who takes great pride in sourcing fresh herbs from the bar's own organic garden, and uses specialty spices and liquors to concoct some pretty intense pairings. Out of more than a dozen cocktails you can even find several "low impact" drinks -- those with fewer calories and less alcohol -- to help keep indulging in-check. This season look for new combinations, as well as the signature favorite known as the Spicy Lover, which combines fresh muddled cucumber and cilantro with agave, a dash of hot sauce and a shot of good tequila.
South Florida, this isn't your average bar -- and these aren't your average drinks. Enter the cocktail lover's paradise, where authentic classic craft cocktails are mixed by master bartender and co-owner Sean Iglehart, who has a passion for gin and whiskey (but his tequila, vodka and rum drinks are equally delicious). Have a hankering for something obscure? He can make it for you, and no doubt give it his own twist; Iglehart is well-versed in cocktail history, having traveled extensively honing his skill, most recently covering the underground drink culture in the Pacific northwest. Like a speakeasy of the 1920s, the aptly named Sweetwater -- located in a near-hidden location in a small street-front space off Federal Highway in Boynton Beach -- is equipped with an arsenal of bitters, house-made infusions, specialty liqueurs, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables to make you one hell of a drink. Part of the authenticity also includes Iglehart's ritualistic execution of his craft, the drawn-out process of creating a layered cocktail using old-world style bar instruments. Prepare for a show, keep an eye out for the wooden swizzle stick, and be sure to sit back when he uses an open flame to infuse your drink with the oils from a lemon peel. Prepare to be dazzled, and hooked.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.
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