While people in cities like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco have been discovering the joy of a well-made Aviation, perfect Manhattan, or a solid Negroni for decades, most South Floridians are still making do with frozen, premade mixes served in plastic cups.
But times, they are a-changin'. The cocktail scene in Palm Beach County is growing, and behind this new era of imbibing with bars that shaking things up, from themed cocktail menus to tiki-style drinks by the beach.
Even if you've seen our list of the best cocktail bars in South Florida, here are a few more favorite watering holes from West Palm Beach to Boca Raton:
1. Hullabaloo. 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 current roster — each cocktails named for deceased musicians — includes the Rick James, a blend of Jameson, Temontis Mirto, Foro Amaro, orange bitters, and fresh oregano. Or try the Peter Tosh, a taste of spiced rum blended with pineapple, egg white, lime juice, cardamom, and Garam Masala. 517 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Call 561-833-1033, or visit sub-culture.org.
2. The Rebel House. 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 several years ago and have become a smash hit for their distinctive American-style tapas paired with some equally fresh and flavorful cocktails. At the bar, whiskey and bourbon are the main focus with creative concoctions that highlight fresh flavors full of fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruit infusions. 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. 297 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton. Call 561-353-5888, or visit lifetastesbetter.com.
3. Kapow! Noodle Bar. Kapow! isn't just a noodle bar — it's also one of the area's best craft cocktail bars. With two locations in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, Imbibers can indulge in a colorful drink selection drafted seasonally by mixologist Angela Dugan and bar manager Brett Robertson, who each take great pride in sourcing fresh herbs from the bar's own Boca Raton-based organic garden and 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. 431 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. Call 561-347-7322, or visit kapownoodlebar.com.