Liz Dzuro
The only real reason most bars need to have food in South Florida is to offer those patrons who libatiously overindulge in the booze — which is what brought them to the bar in the first place. Hello! In a handful of other, more tight-assed localities like Plantation and even entire states farther away, like Virginia, pesky governmental types use their lawmaking powers to require that every drink-swilling establishment operate a full kitchen. That said, even when you're out-of-your-mind drunk and need to eat right now, you couldn't do better than the Rum Shack. Here, the fries go beyond just soaking up the alcohol in your belly that's beginning to rebel. Here, these hand-cut treats can come with oozing gorgonzola. Not in the mood for the tater-based version? Try the ones made from the vitamin-rich sweet potato. They'll make you feel like you're making a healthy choice, at least until you remember that the only reason you ordered them is because you popped back eight Jäger shots and two of the hardcore, will-always-get-you-there Rumpleminz variety. Oh, about the homemade onion rings: They're shoestring and not overly coated with heavy batter. Forsake the fried and try the very smoky fish dip — just the way smoked fish dip should taste. Use the warm garlic bread it comes with to dish it all up.
Despite having been around for two years, the Naked Grape is still basically undiscovered. It's a state of affairs that must endlessly rankle the proprietors, but it's damned lucky for the regulars: The vibe at the Grape is mellow enough that you can have a quiet conversation with friends without straining your throat, and the bar is usually half-full, resulting in quick and friendly service. The moment you step through the door, bright, soft light gleams on clean metallic surfaces across the bar's airy open spaces, and you realize this is a place for casual oenophiles — a community watering hole as much as an outpost of serious viticulture, where you can see a few selected faces from the neighborhood gathered and talking for hours amid the free-form arrangement of big, comfy sofas near the bar's entrance. As you step in, reds are on your left, whites are on your right, and the more intense fuller-bodied wines — along with ports and assorted oddities like the "chocolate" wine, Trent Adue — are farther back, along with the Grape's pricier selections. The bar offers a small but intriguing mix of beers hailing from the Netherlands, the Bahamas, and all points in between, a selection of sakes and sake cocktails, and an assortment of cheeses and chocolates. Proprietor Michael Bocraft has a laissez-faire attitude toward live entertainment, so just about anybody could be doing just about anything on just about any night. It is this sublime relaxedness that makes the Naked Grape stand out so: Come as you are, do you as you please, and stay till it suits you.
Courtesy of Shooter's Waterfront
Bloody Marys used to be a simple, utilitarian way to deal with a hangover. Then some brilliant drinksmith got to tinkering with the recipe, and the next thing you knew, it wasn't a Bloody Mary anymore unless it was made with freshly ground peppercorns harvested by indigenous pygmies, free-range hydroponic celery sticks, Finnish vodka made from purified rainwater — plus a special, supersecret hot-sauce blend. Those accouterments are all well and good (especially the last one), but the real secret to a good Bloody Mary is consistency. As in consistently drinkable. Not so tangy your tongue catches a seizure, not so tomatoey you feel like you're sucking on a ketchup packet, and sure as hell not made with that Clamato crap. Bloody Mary fans — there aren't as many as you'd think anymore — fiending for a feisty wake-up call know Shooter's has the most dependable recipe around: a dark (but not too dark) red (but not too red) glass of courage sure to start off your Sunday morning on the right foot. Or any morning, really. Everyone has an opinion about how a Bloody Mary should look and taste, but a real aficionado knows that instead of bickering over the ratio of Tabasco to Worcestershire, it's better to just down a couple right off the bat to get that hair of the dog barking.
If you're talking about margaritas, here's a simple truth: Quantity trumps quality every time. Not that ten bad margaritas are better than five good ones. It's simply that a very good margarita the size of a Seaworld holding tank is gonna do a lot more for you than a totally excellent margarita the size of, say, a margarita. And it's this truth that keeps sauce-monsters returning religiously to Tequila Sunrise, a delightful Mexican eatery that combines American excess with Mexicali vices— as in 12 different margaritas all available in 46 ounces! Dear reader, that's bigger than your head. And those 12 varieties are inventive, delicious, and thoroughly worth exhaustive exploration (though, please God, not in a single sitting). There's La Rosita (with its splash of cranberry), the cool Gringo (made with mellow melon liqueur), El Presidente (a monster filled with brandy and Triple Sec), and the Prickly Pear, with pears peeled (as the menu says, "to keep pricks away from your margarita") and tequila-soaked for three days. Then there's the most lushly decadent of them all, "The Tequila Sunrise." That'd be Cuervo mixed with orange juice, a mélange of citruses, and a dribble of grenadine. The damned thing looks like a sunrise, but by the time you're through, you'll be seeing stars.
Until now, Going South conjured a host of images — for some, a market price dive and for others, subnavel plunge. But at the Cottage, "Going South" is a cocktail that's the equivalent of receiving a French-vanilla kiss from an angelic lover between nibbles of pineapple and sips of margarita. The drink is an infusion of juicy pineapple, brown sugar, and vanilla in a tequila and triple sec mixture, which is shaken with sweet-and-sour mix before serving. Straight up or on the rocks, the Cottage's signature drink will have you rolling your eyes in gratitude as you stare transfixed at the illuminated stained glass behind the bar.
Also known as "Hippy-Dippy Mike," Michael Sinasac makes a mean drink. It's the only not-nice thing about him. His curly gray hair frames an always-there big, bright smile. Sinasac was slinging cocktails at this beachside place for years until the day it closed this April; it was a place with a small army of loyal regulars. Sinasac remembered everyone's signature cocktail and knew who drank Bud Light and who preferred Miller Light. He'd have your scotch and water ready before your butt could hit the stool. Hippy-Dippy's behind the bar because he clearly enjoys the people. That's why he remembered everyone's name, drink, and entire relationship history! He's taking a break for a bit to work on his real love — stained glass windows and designs. But when he comes back, be sure he will remember you so don't forget him.
Some are in it for the cash, some for the hours, and some for the sex. Stephanie White may be the last bartender on Earth who likes the barkeep gig because she genuinely enjoys hearing about somebody else's problems. She likes cheering folks up, and with her killer smile and droopy doe eyes lined in black, she has a way of doing just that. White grew up in Coral Springs and started working as a server in restaurants as a teenager. She kept it up for seven years, then got promoted to bartending. She's been doing that for the past seven years — but she won't say where she worked previously because it's a competitor of Smokey Bones. How's that for loyalty? On a recent Wednesday night, she was cleaning up and getting ready to cash out when she spied a longing look on a regular's face. "Do you want your peanut butter pie, Christopher?" she asked a cherubic man at the end of the bar. He did, and she dutifully fetched it. White learned to toss bottles way back, but that's for showoffs. Her favorite bartending moments are when people come in with big news to share. Like a new baby. Or a promotion. Who knew there was actually a bartender in South Florida who gave a crap? We weren't sure whether to be creeped out or give her an award.
Carina Mask
It's hard to believe that owner Jaroslaw "Jay" Rottermund can fit 114 beers from 22 countries into this tiny nook of a bar. But he manages to stock everything from Argentina's Quilmes (essentially the Budweiser of Argentina) to Turkey's Efes Pilsen (which has a basketball team named after it) to 15 American brews. Although Rottermund says he won't look down on you for ordering a Bud Light draft, the most popular flavors among the bar's young, artsy crowd are Belgium's Delirium Tremens ($6), Belzebuth from France (also $6 but 13 percent alcohol!), and the number-one bestseller, Zywiec ($4), a lager from Poland. For mental stimulation, Rottermund has sprinkled the bar with trinkets like chessboards, books, a computer with Internet access — and a giant birdcage in which naked Barbie dolls live side by side with a plastic swan. "It is forbidden to feed the swan," Rottermund says. The punishment for transgressors? "You will have to buy a beautiful, exotic beer."
Not all girls are sugar and spice and everything nice. The Fantasy Party at the Seminole Hard Rock Paradise plaza is a bachelorette-themed bash that takes place behind the velvet ropes and closed doors of Passions Nightclub every Friday and Saturday night. Preliminary cocktails loosen the lips and hips of 20- and 30-something women before the real sinning begins, which includes (dirty) dancing, adult-only games (i.e., fake orgasm contests and something called "abs for grabs"), pole-dancing lessons, and full access to a bunch of boytoys in underwear. This scandalous soiree begins at 9 p.m., and it doesn't come cheap: $39.99 for the regular treatment, $49.99 for premiere seats, $69.99 for VIP. Of course, the cost comes with free drinks galore, party favors, and a free night's admission to the 15,000-square-foot club. You also get this free advice from the proprietors: "If your boyfriend asks where you're going... lie! "
When it comes to controlling a crowd at the mega-entertainment center known as Seminole Hard Rock, there's nobody who competes with Charlie Solana of Gryphon Nightclub. He's an ace with Top 40 and hip-hop but excels when it comes to house and electronic music. What's impressive is the way he effortlessly flows among various genres while keeping a consistent groove. It's easy to stay on the dancefloor while Solana's behind the decks. He's good at playing tracks that build up a mood, going higher and higher with each song until he nearly causes sensory overload. Don't expect him to stick with popular songs all night — he drops freshly released material from topnotch producers from around the world. That's what dance lovers crave, and it keeps the line outside of Gryphon packed. While there are plenty of clubs with DJs who play what's hot now, Solana is good at choosing what will be hot in six months. And when a DJ allows listeners a glimpse of the future, everybody wins.

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