Mai-Kai
CandaceWest.com

Mai-Kai's cocktail menu is ominous. The shrunken skull is "dangerous and deadly." The Bora Bora is an "adventurous challenge," and the 151 swizzle is "only for the sturdy." Although all are tasty concoctions that will have you slurring after a few sips, the real standout is the aptly named black magic. This potent snifterful of dark rums, lime juice, coffee, and other mystery ingredients is frighteningly refreshing and surprisingly complex. From the first sip, the flavor of coffee lingers on the taste buds without overwhelming them. After a few gulps, the stinging jab of various rums subsides, leaving the gut warm and tongue loose. If the $14 price tag is a turnoff, just get to the bar during a daily happy hour, when all drinks are half-priced.

Hut Lounge and Package Store

This actually is a hole in the wall, and you wouldn't notice it but for the small sign sticking out into a side street, bearing the word HUT in plain lettering. There's something about bars next to package stores — if you're farther north in Wilton Manors, you'd do well to stop by Red's — that provides a genuine friendliness that 10,000 hipsters couldn't manufacture or reproduce. The bar here circles the middle of the room like a welcoming sandbar for battered ships, open daily at 7 in the morning. Unlike most nightlife spots, this one isn't unbearably seedy in the daytime; its day-shift bartenders are just as good as the night ones, though the bullshit detectors will be turned up high. Be sure to say hi to Zero, the guy who looks like Einstein (he owns the place), and peep the many photos of his travels around the world while you say goodbye to one light beer after another and shuffle over to the shuffleboard, then back to your barstool, then finally into the daylight to go back to work.

Laser Wolf

In the burgeoning FAT Village Arts District is Laser Wolf, a year-old bar that has quickly made a name for itself among the local scene. Far away from the beachy tourist traps, fist-pumping clubs, and beer-bong-playing crowds, Laser Wolf has established itself as the quintessential neighborhood watering hole. Its hometown feel is emphasized by the long, hand-crafted bar, the murals painted by friends, and, naturally, the Bellus brothers behind the bar serving drinks to customers in the place they brought to life.

There's no sign outside alerting you to the newest Hollywood music venue and fine brew hot spot. But somehow you'll find your way into the Native Florida Tap Room and Music Hall. The venue is owned by Carl "Kilmo" Pacillo, whose beloved venue Alligator Alley closed in 2009. After many years of waiting to open in another spot, this joint's perks make the wait worth it. Since its doors opened early this year, Native Florida Tap Room has booked a solid lineup of musical acts, featuring blues, rock, jazz, punk, funk, and folk, both by locals and out-of-towners. The comfortable bar sports an impressive array of microbrews, craft beers, and cider, both bottled and with 18 options on tap. Don't forget your cash, shirt, and shoes. These are required. Oh, and your taste for live music.

The Irishmen

The ideal where-to-go-for-your-daily-pint bar strikes a healthy balance between "record stops when a stranger walks in" and "a stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet/would you like to hear our drink specials?" insincerity. The atmosphere at the Irishmen certainly strikes genuine notes. Live music, plenty of horny and happy college kids, more than 30 beers on tap, servers who are friendly with newbies but tend to spend a bit more time shooting the shit with the regs? Yeah. That's how your neighborhood bar should be.

Kim's Alley Bar

It's another Tuesday night at Kim's Alley Bar in Victoria Park. You're sharing a table with your significant other at the front bar thinking about all the fighting you two have been doing lately. After gaining some liquid courage, you decide it's time to pull the plug on the relationship. The room is dark, good for hiding any tears and runny makeup. The jukebox is loud, and drunks are shouting the lyrics, perfect for masking any fighting. And when it's all said and done, you can head over to the second, back bar to get away without being too far from a drink.

The Hurricane Bar & Lounge

By the time Sunday night rolls around after a long weekend of fun, it's not uncommon to experience an aversion to activities like cooking and putting on shoes. If this sounds familiar, find your perfect weekend-capper at Rockout With Your Cookout, the weekly Sunday hangout put on by Brotherly Love Productions at Hurricane Lounge. Each week, a different local, regional, or national band is featured — usually of the jam, funk, or reggae sort and often in a stripped-down configuration to match the laid-back mood of the scene. While the band plays, free-spirited folks who smell like incense enjoy free food from the grill accompanied by the last drinks before the workweek.

Poorhouse

It's 2 a.m.; most of the bars on Himmarshee have closed out tabs and shuffled the drunks out the doors. You and your gang want just one more drink. Hell, maybe you want two or three more. Nobody is judging you; we want somewhere to hang out late night too. That's why we head over to the Poorhouse. Open until 4 a.m., this legendary local dive is the place to go before calling it a night. There's usually a late-night band onstage, and if not, the jukebox is packed with drunk-sing-along anthems. The bartenders' pours are heavy, and the atmosphere is completely relaxed.

Havana Hideout
Christina Mendenhall

Just as Lake Worth stubbornly refuses to shower, shave, and dress up for tourists, Havana Hideout remains an ungentrified gem. Sand crunches beneath your flip-flops when you sit at picnic tables shielded by thatched tiki huts. Beer and sangria are served in plastic cups, and there's no gin or tonic here. On cool nights, the regulars crowd inside at the tiny bar, but on Taco Thursdays — when tacos are $1.50 apiece — the outdoor picnic tables overflow with people. Always, there is live music. It might be the hesitant, meandering twang of open-mic night or a Beatles cover band that makes the whole neighborhood stop and listen. On any given night, Lake Avenue is more alive because of Havana. When the breeze rustles the palm trees above the tiki huts, this bar reminds us why we moved to Florida and why it's so hard to leave.

Guanabanas

A canopy of trees, under the stars, on a swath of Jupiter Inlet where the water laps sweetly at the shoreline. Pull up a barstool near the waterfall and listen to a surf-reggae band croon. This is the way your guests imagined Florida, so it's only fair to give them what they seek. Every inch of Guanabanas murmurs vacation, from the tiki huts to the wooden deck chairs where you can sit, nurse a beer, and contemplate moonlight on the water. Greenery this lush doesn't exist much anymore in South Florida's concrete jungle, so the perfectly landscaped paths here have a slightly Disney feel. But it doesn't matter. The trees are real, the breeze is comforting, and your guests are tipsy and guzzling conch fritters. Welcome home.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®