Broward and Palm Beach counties have a long, alcohol-fueled history. From Prohibition rum-runners to shots-guzzling spring breakers, and the recent boom of
What we've historically lacked, however, is a cocktail culture. Lucky for us, a few good ones are all we need to keep things shakin'. From tiki-style drinks by the beach to speakeasy-styled digs, finding a solid martini or creative concoction is on the rise thanks to a number of spots creating intoxicating magic behind the bar.
All that's left to do is raise a glass and toast to the top ten cocktail bars in South Florida:
A half-decade ago, as new-wave cocktail culture swept the nation, South Florida was sorely lacking. While people in cities like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco were already discovering the joy of a well-made Aviation, perfect Manhattan, or a solid Negroni, South Floridians were still making do with remade, neon margarita mix served in plastic cups. And then came Sweetwater: in 2011, founders Clint Reed and Sean opened the area's first Prohibition-style speakeasy in Boynton Beach. Next-door, their latest concept Saxon — a 30-seat bar and lounge accessible through Sweetwater — offers the county's first omakase cocktail experience. 1507 S. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach; 561-509-9277; sweetwater33.com.
2. The Wilder.
3. Death or Glory.
If you like your tiki cocktails on the beach, look no further than the beach pier in Lake Worth, where a permanent pop-up tiki bar dubbed Tiki-Ono has set up shop several days a week at the entrance to Benny’s on the Beach. Here you can order a number of potent, tiki-styled libations, mixed drinks, and rum flights — some served from fresh, shaved coconuts or hollowed out pineapple
s — several days a week. The men behind Tiki-Ono are local bartenders Rob Husted and Josh Gates, who developed the tiki beach-side concept where they make it possible for you to "enjoy tiki drinks in paradise." The bar operates out of a temporary tent since February 2015 open noon to 7 pm, weather permitting. No need to get fancy, either; the clientele keeps it casual as beachgoers order in bathing suits or bikinis from a chalkboard menu that presents a short list of rotating and signature tiki-styled drinks. That includes the signature Lota Colada, a basil-infused piña colada that uses real cream of coconut and is served in a logo-stamped, fresh-shaved coconut. Or try one of several new seasonal concoctions like the Tiki Libre, a play on a Cuba Libre-meets-pina Colada and made with a blend of local Black Coral white rum and Jamaican Blackwell rum. Prefer something a bit more classic? Starting in September, a new menu will feature a list of classic tiki drinks alongside a specialty rotating list offering several takes on both the Pina colada and daiquiri. There's even a secret menu (visit the website and see if you can find it). 10 S. Ocean Blvd., Lake Worth; 561-315-7963; tiki-ono.com.
HMF, which opened in 2012, is Palm Beach's first — and only — dedicated craft cocktail bars. Located at the Breakers lobby, the Florentine Room is where the glitterati drank and dined for decades, named for the hotel's founder, Henry Morrison Flagler, the railroad magnate who helped to pioneer the development of South Florida. Today, the space has been reinvented as a sophisticated lounge for South Florida's Jet Set, and to keep with tradition, is truly a feast for all senses. A collection of classic cocktails pay loving tribute to the originals, a full menu of signature, handcrafted drinks ranging from the traditional concoctions to the experimental with innovative twists that include all the usual trends like freshly made ingredients, elixirs, and sodas. An added bonus: an acclaimed wine list offers more than 2,000 unique selections and the cigarette girl inspired by the social cocktail clubs of the ’50s and ’60s (think of her as a sort of high-end server offering various tastings of specialty items, be it an aperitif, specialty dessert sample, or anything to enhance the cocktail party experience). 1 S. County Road, Palm Beach; 855-237-3452; hmfpalmbeach.com.
8. Rhythm & Vine
Is it a beer garden? A pop-up garden party? Craft cocktail bar? Rhythm & Vine in Fort Lauderdale is all three, what amounts to the ultimate backyard party. All it takes is an open-air area, some picnic-styled tables, plenty of good music, and a few craft brews and handcrafted cocktails to get the good times started. And it's right smack in the heart of the city, located in a hidden patch of land at the corner of NE Fifth Terrace and NE Fourth Street in Fort Lauderdale where you'll find a roaming outdoor lounge serviced by a repurposed Airstream and a dimly lit inside bar fashioned out of two, 20-foot-long metal shipping containers. Here you can sip on drinks that use homemade bitters and infusions; fresh-squeezed juices; and small-batch, high-quality spirits; while fresh herbs make pretty, flavor-packed garnishes. There's the Sage by the Bell, a combination of Beefeater gin with homemade limoncello, lemon and lime juice, and pear cider, garnished with fresh sage. Or the Watermelon Vine, a lemongrass-infused New Amsterdam vodka made with fresh-pressed citrus, locally grown watermelon, and mint. The favorite, however, is the Colada Old Fashion, a potent drink made with a blend of Old Forester bourbon and 101 Rittenhouse rye whiskey, bitters, and a bold reduction syrup made from nearby Colada House's Cuban coffee. The presentation is casual, with plastic cups — but, hey — it's still a garden party, remember? 401 NE Fifth Terrace, Fort Lauderdale; 954-533-3734; rhythm-vine.com.
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9. Apothecary 330
Accessible via side entryway from Himmarshee Village's Pizzacraft, Apothecary 330 is a crafty answer to the area's imbibing scene. Here, a short copper bar with seating for up to 15 is mirrored by a cozy lounge area where bottle service takes place on weekends. The cavernous interior includes a T-shaped custom-built red leather couch and walls adorned with turn-of-the-century knickknacks like old sewing machines and decades-old apothecary jars the owners' sourced from nearby vintage dealers. Behind the bar, guests can find an assortment of rare and specialty liquors, about 250 bottles, with a focus on bourbon and whiskey. The collection includes a number of imported picks you might not find locally. Apothecary's interpretation of classic cocktails will provide the foundation of the menu, with modern takes on old-world favorites like the Sazerac, Hemingway daiquiri, NY sour, a gin fizz, a margarita, and — of course — the old-fashioned. Or go the route of an ever-revolving list of one-off's and seasonal specialities designed by the Apothecary staff, each made using small-batch and high-end spirits and an arsenal of homemade bitters, barrel-aged liquors and infusions, syrups, and foams. 330 SE Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-616-8028; jeygroup.com.
Fort Lauderdale's downtown Himmarshee district has long been heralded as the preeminent drinking strip in Broward County. That being said, the drinks served along the block were more along the vodka/Red Bull lines than anything else. That all changed when Stache came to town and world-renowned mixologist John Lermayer created a list of drinks that brought a touch of cocktail culture to downtown Fort Lauderdale. From classics like the French 75 (with Champagne, Nolet's gin, and lemon) to new inventions like the Bad Habit (Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, lime juice, simple, cherry berry jam, and Velvet Falernum), Broward cocktail enthusiasts now have a place they can call home. During the day, the space takes on a more perky vibe as a coffee bar, proudly serving Miami Panther coffee concoctions to help keep your drinking in good form even through the day. 109 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-449-1044; stacheftl.com.