Best Bartender in Broward 2006 | Jessica at Duck Soup | Bars & Clubs | South Florida
It was a trip to get a secondhand couch for the new apartment. The God-fearing man behind the front desk looked at the delivery address. That's near Duck Soup, he said. He had seen some bad stuff in Duck Soup. His parting advice as he handed over the receipt: "Don't go to Duck Soup." Up his. Duck Soup turned out to be a homely dive joint where the beer was cheap, the jukebox decent, the TVs turned to basketball, and the bartenders thrilled to have guests. Over time, it appeared, it also got some ambition and some dough. After months of renovation, the place has climbed a couple of rungs on the great bar ladder, with new TVs, a refinished pool table, higher ceilings, live music, and noticeable interior lights. Soon, we hear, the bar's also going to get a new name, but we could get no hints on what it will be. The laquered copper top of the bar gleams like a lunar surface lined in pennies. And behind it, an affable blond with all manner of piercings in her face and ears and a too-short T-shirt that reads "Rotten Little Girl" and shows off her tattoos: an upturned bleeding skull on her left shoulder, a line of ghostly skulls on her upper spine, six-shooters emblazoned over her kidneys. She laughs with the patrons, dances a little to the music, and serves a mean $2 bottle of Miller Lite. Her name is Jessica, and though her presence may deter some, you should heed your impulse, not their advice, and go to Duck Soup.
Back in '99, a young bartender traveled to Islamorada to watch the superstars of bartending compete in the Bartender's Bash. Rob Husted watched the best of the best twirl cups and juggle bottles and got hooked on "flair bartending," and in seven short years, he's climbed to the top of the sport. In 2004, he won the title of Most Accurate Bartender in the World, and the next year, he placed 11th at the Legends of Bartending World Finals and outranked many grizzled shaker-spinners. Rob not only entertains the hip crowd at Palm Beach Gardens' hottest nightclub full time but he also teaches the art to others looking to twirl and pour their way to a fatter tip jar. If that weren't enough, he manages to organize BarWars, an annual Flair Bartending Competition, and is vice president of -- the sport's most popular magazine. This guy makes the fancy cup-twirler at your local dive look like a clumsy oaf while he pours a half-dozen shots at once, juggles bottles, and performs total liquor magic to get the booze from the bottle to your mouth.
How many times do you have to listen to your significant other say "Oh, Milwaukee's Best... again" before you get the clue. Before you have to face the embarrassment of asking the clerk at some chain store if Sam Adams is better than Corona, go to Case and Keg and get some expert advice. Right when you walk in the door, you know you've found the place where beer lives. It feels like you've strolled into a whiskey barrel -- tight, dark, and filled with booze. Wherever your eyes fall are colorful labels and bottles that you won't recognize. Micro, domestic, and imported varieties of brew reach into the hundreds, with more coming in weekly, as well as more than 150 beers by the keg. Too lazy, or drunk, to drive? Give them a call and have the infamous Party Wagon roll out to your pad and drop off a keg of Native Ale or South Florida's favorite microbrew, No. 11 Brown. Oh, and make sure you also check out the website,, for Beer Babe of the Month.
If you take your beer seriously, you take Guinness seriously. And if you take Guinness seriously, you take the way it's poured seriously. Advertisements for Guinness claim that "it takes 119.6 seconds to pour the perfect pint" of Ireland's famous stout. That might come as a surprise to many local bartenders, who pour a Guinness with the same quick hand they use to pour a Budweiser. But a fast pour of Guinness creates a cloudy pint that never quite settles -- a mortal sin in the world of Guinness drinkers. A bartender with Irish in his heart knows that a true Guinness pour -- known as the "slow pour" -- requires two stages: First, the bartender pours three-fourths of the pint while the glass is at an angle. He waits about a minute for the beer to settle, then pours the remaining one-fourth. That creates a beautiful pint of black-as-night beer topped by a creamy brown head. For style points, bartenders will sometimes use the beer tap to create a design (often a shamrock) in the beer's head. Such bartenders are hard to find in South Florida, but you'll find an entire colony of Guinness experts at Kavanagh & Morrissey's in Plantation, on Pine Island Road near I-595. A charming pub and restaurant with vaulted ceilings and an interior straight out of the Irish countryside, Kavanagh & Morrissey's offers great food, good company, and a wide selection of beers. But most important, at Kavanagh & Morrissey's, you're guaranteed to get a perfect pour of Guinness. If you're lucky, it might even come with a shamrock on top.
The primary ingredient of a bloody mary isn't hair of the dog, but it should be. After all, what better time is there to drink a bloody mary than when it's daylight and you're still hurting from last night's no-holds-barred partying session? The folks at Buzz's Lounge in Sunrise know better than anyone the powerful tonic created when you mix vodka, tomato juice, lime juice, and a few olives. That's why there's no better place in South Florida for a Sunday-morning bloody mary than Buzz's, which offers $2 bloody mary specials all day Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. At Buzz's, an unpretentious bar at the end of a nondescript shopping mall, the bartenders are warm and friendly, and the drinks are cold and stiff. What more could you ask for on a hungover Sunday afternoon?
Of the roughly 50 martinis available at Swig Bartini, a classy nightlife spot in Weston Town Center, any one is good enough to win this Best Of. "The Swig" ($11) -- a classic, just-as-Bogie-would-like-it martini with Grey Goose, vermouth, and three large olives -- is as good as any martini gets. But due to style points, this year's Best Signature Cocktail has to go to Swig Bartini's "Marilyn Monroe" ($10). A martini as red as the Hollywood vixen's lips, the Marilyn Monroe features Absolut Citron, a splash of cranberry juice, and a hint of lime, champagne, and, for a final touch of Tinseltown class, a strawberry on the rim. A sweet-tasting champagne martini, the Marilyn Monroe will have you ready for a night on the town -- or just a night at Swig Bartini, whose brick walls and modern interior can make you feel like you're in the middle of Manhattan rather than in the middle of Weston.
We've studied the South Florida margarita scene for a long time. It's a sad, lonely pursuit. There's the place that serves margaritas flavored with exotic fruits, like the prickly pear (boring). There are joints that pump out phosphorescent-looking frozen margs, distinguished only by their high alcohol content. And there are bars that just don't know how to make a marg, like the fancy Boca joint where they squeeze so much lime and lemon juice into the mix that you get a bitter aftertaste. But then we go back to the Yucatan. Most of the margaritas there -- a menu column's worth -- are leavened with Cointreau and Grand Marnier, as well as the restaurant's patented sweet-and-sour mix (and no, it's not bitter). The Golden Margarita starts out with Sauza Comemorativo; the Yucatan Margarita uses Sauza Tres Generaciones. All use fine añejos, and all cost around six bucks, though you can get a twofer during Happy Hour, 4 to 7 p.m. Close your eyes and you are drinking in Mexico.
Photo by Monica McGivern
Could there really be any other choice? For almost a decade, the husband-and-wife rock-star team of Greg and Sharon Alliferis has run this midsized venue as if it were a major-league ballroom. They regularly pack the house for big names and offer a solid sound system and friendly service to smaller fries, both important elements in creating a buzzworthy club. In 2005, though, they really honed their focus and put together a consistently eclectic, exciting roster of shows, including the Killers, Soulive, the Extreme Music Festival, Railroad Earth, and Reigning Sound. The décor is all black and perfectly sparse, kind of like a blank palette for the music, and bands tend to step up and offer topnotch performances thanks to the room's iconic history. From death metal to bluegrass to local faves to national headliners, there's no better place in South Florida to rock the hell out.
With a scene that's becoming increasingly incestuous, purveyors of local nightlife put us to task this year in determining any sole winner in this category. Having chosen collective status over individual stardom, Fort Lauderdale's Phoenix crew -- just one of a few groups that now call local venue Roxanne's home -- has put to bed the notion of marquee DJs, opting to supply eclectic music and culture to a Broward community jaded by Himmarshee Street. Comprised of a blend of scenesters -- including drum 'n' bass maestro Sean Weeks, Poplife mainstay Ray Milian, and burgeoning Lauderdale DJ Andie Superstar -- Phoenix bears the imprint of the Brothers Alexander but is growing sturdy enough legs to distinguish itself from the Crush milieu. Weeks, specifically, is an anomaly in this indie-centric scene, having spent the past half-decade spreading frenetic jungle beats through his nights at Karma and other SoFla locales. Yet somehow, the Chicago native has found a comfortable fit in a group more likely to break it down to DFA and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah than Metalheadz. But Weeks is just one component of a well-oiled machine, and with veterans like Milian on board for the ride, Phoenix Fridays thrives thanks more to a fiercely talented collective than to any single luminary.
When a place is as far south of the Mason-Dixon Line as South Florida, its slow dancing should pack a little boot, scoot, and boogie. Round Up, which boasts one of the biggest dance floors in the county, is the perfect place for the city slicker set to cast off his Yankee rigidity and learn a whole new way to move across parquet. For the small price of a $5 cover fee, Round Up will teach you the basics of two-step and then turn you loose. Unlike many dance ballrooms that banish newbies to the wall to wistfully watch the preternaturally gifted pros whirl and strut, Round Up focuses its attention on the shy novice with two left feet. At 7 p.m. daily, wannabe rug-cutters line up for a gentle line-dancing lesson, and on Thursdays and Saturdays, couples can remind themselves of the basics of the two-step, swing, and cha-cha from 8 to 9 p.m. But Round Up is no playpen -- experienced hoof-shiners have plenty of space to preen and mince on the spacious floor. Good thing four full bars ring the dance floor, making it easy for a novice stumbler to refill on a little liquid courage before giving it another go.

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