A gay bar is not to be confused with a gay club. A club is a very different matter — bright lights, hot bodies grinding against each other, cute underage boys shoving ecstasy tablets up their bums in the bathroom. Bars are for something else: for sitting there and drinking your beer and minding your business until some totally wasted freak ambles over and strikes up a conversation. This happens all the time at Monkey Business, but it's not oppressive — most nights, you can sit with a friend or three and be left in peace while the aging, bearish regulars and one strange old lady from the apartment complex across the street catch up on the gossip at the next table. Granted, plenty of people don't think a great bar is necessarily a peaceful one, but there are lots of places for those folks: Scandals, Sidelines, Georgie's, etc. Basically, nearly every gay bar in existence ever. But if you're one of those who want to get serenely blotto among good, unassuming folk, Monkey Business is for you.

Too often, happy hour means watery macro-brews and insipid appetizers. It's cheap, but you get what you pay for. The Grape on Las Olas gives this pub standard a sophisticated twist, offering discounts on its stock of over 100 wines, available by the glass for $4 to $7. Between sips, spread gourmet cheese across the pita chips, or munch on the sweet tomato bruschetta. Sounds a little more palatable than Bud Light and buffalo wings, doesn't it?

It's not blowing smoke to say the most appealing part of an evening at the Funky Buddha Lounge is the list of microbrews — there are more than 50 and they come from all over the country, brewed from all manner of fruit and vegetation. There are also almost 50 wines and more than 40 different kinds of teas. You can drink beer, wine, and tea in a lot of places, but you'd be hard-pressed to find another establishment with that and 40 flavors of shisha like the Funky Buddha. Have some cider before you start pulling on a bowl of some of the original house mixes like California Dream. Check out the freaky, nipple-centric art on the walls and listen to some acoustic tunes. Bonus if you can impress your friends with your ability to blow smoke rings.

Whereas many drink-slingers say they're only working the clubs until they land that modeling contract, win the Nobel Prize, or meet a sugar mama across the counter, Don Singleton treats his job like a profession and a craft. Even when he's off duty, he has kind words for his co-workers and gets people psyched about the bar. He can always be counted on for a Hawaiian shirt and a sly smile that intimates he's in on a secret. He deftly helps customers navigate a complex beer selection, and he never runs out of drink suggestions, which may include his secret-recipe Mango Madness. Request some obscure, show-offy drink and ask "Can you make that?" and Don will just chuckle. Of course he can.

This is not your mother's Chippendales. But it might be your father's kind of testosterone parade. The boys at Boardwalk dance in briefs, for an almost entirely male clientele. And, oh, the variety! Boardwalk employs buff guys, twinks, even bears — all young and tender. Buzz-kill alert for the male patrons: Many of the dancers like women as much as, or more than, men. Females have to sign a waiver promising not to have physical contact with the dancers — although maybe it should be the other way around, 'cause these boys are frisky! They'll slap a girl on her ass, pin her against the wall during a grind session, even give her a peek at their packages. Like any strip club, the drinks are overpriced, but what entertainment! And each night has its own theme, like Wednesday's "Spring Break Amateur Strip Contest." Yowza!

Hunting for the best margarita is a fun job. Aside from getting drunk in the name of research, you can learn a lot about what goes into making a quality margarita. While on the quest, you'll notice that size does not matter. Some restaurants serve margaritas big enough to dive into while some upscale haunts will dish them out in a martini glass. What's important is quality, and the folks at Azteca Real know how to make a quality margarita. Starting with a stellar tequila selection and fresh juices instead of simple margarita mix, the result isn't your average cocktail. Unfortunately, there is an intangible cost: The service at Azteca is borderline comical. But while some of the bartenders may lack tact, they make up for it tenfold when it comes to mixing.

For martini-drinking ambience, head for the lounge at Fort Lauderdale's St. Regis Hotel, where a jazzy score rolls across a vaulted ceiling of blond wood. But the St. Regis, like so many other upscale joints in South Florida, has an unexotic array of gins, and that's bound to rankle the true martini snob. He's liable to follow the scent of juniper berries a few blocks north along A1A to the Trina lounge, inside the Atlantic Hotel. Here one can find Martin Miller's, a brand whose British makers followed their gin obsession all the way to Iceland for glacial waters that are the world's purest. This is perhaps the deft touch of mixology and hospitality guru Nick Mautone, a consultant to the bar and restaurant. Mautone seems to have also imparted a few lessons to the bartending staff, who are wise to the subtle ways of martini creation.

It's dark, dank, and delightfully drunken. The old-timey wooden bar and chatty bartenders say, "Come in and spill your guts. We won't spill a drop of beer." The shadows and TVs constantly playing sports say, "Just have a beer and relax. Life isn't as bad as you think." And even if it is, what's better than a nice neighborhood bar to forget about who said what to whom. So your real next-door neighbors don't like you, and you're not about to stop playing Pantera at top volume when the mood strikes. Come down to Mickey's and meet your new neighbors: the doctor on the next stool who wishes he hadn't married young, the recent divorcee who wishes she'd fought for a bigger settlement, the Red Sox fan who won't shut up about how much he hates A-rod. It's like an episode of Cheers — with better nuts.

In Fort Lauderdale, you'll be hard pressed to find a bar as deeply connected to one neighborhood as Kim's Alley Bar is to Victoria Park. The pub is also a staple for a lot of city residents regardless of neighborhood — there's an allure to Kim's that is stronger than a zip code — but the folks of Victoria Park still love it the best. Everyday from 4:30 p.m. onward, you see locals headed there on foot. That's the best way to go because you can get blind drunk and not need to drive afterward. Kim's has pool, darts, ping-pong, and a killer jukebox, which makes it easy to lose track of time in this watering hole. The friendly bar staff treats everyone like Norm from Cheers, which isn't easy to achieve in today's rushed society. Kim's is a throwback. They're celebrating their 60th year in business for a reason — they know how to treat their customers right.

Carina Mask

You want three things from the perfect bar. 1.) You must be able to smoke inside. 2.) Your fellow drinkers should be fun, interesting, approachable, and represent all neighborhoods and backgrounds. 3.) They've gotta have a lot of beer — like, over 100 varieties. In Hollywood, there's only one place that does all this right: PRL Euro Café. No matter what time you show up during business hours, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., you'll be pleased. During happy hour, from 5 to 7, you get two-for-one drinks. We're not talking just domestic Rocky Mountain swill, either. Think Old Speckled Hen, Belzebuth, and other tasty treats from far-off lands. Pop by in the evening and the long, narrow space is shoulder-to-shoulder with other Euro-brew aficionados. It's an easy environment for mingling since you all share a love of good beer and a loathing for shitty domestic draft. On the weekend, walk into (and stumble out of) underground art shows and drum 'n' bass DJ sets — all with a lit cigarette in hand. PRL might be heaven on Earth. It's definitely the perfect bar.

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