Being a tourist destination is both good and bad for Miami nightlife. On the one hand, money is good. But, on the other hand, the constant stream of tourists looking for a piña colada the size of their first-born child has made it hard to find the best bars in Miami amid those places that cater to spring breakers who fear no hangover.
The hardest part of going out in Miami is avoiding those spots. They often do a good job of disguising their awfulness via trendy sounding names spelled in all lowercase. They serve scary margaritas meant to get you so drunk that you don’t notice your tab comes with an added 75% gratuity and the intellectual rights to any work of fiction you may write in the next 15 years. But we can guarantee no ulterior motives at these bars, which are the standbys that make Miami a great city to drink in. In other words: the Greatest Hits.
Our favorite kind of landmarks are the ones that serve booze, and Mac’s - the most famous dive bar in South Florida - does just that, every day from 8am-5am. Sure, this 50-plus-year-old South Beach spot is rich in history - the neon lights were installed by the Miami Vice crew during a shoot - and you might walk in on a retired rock star sipping whiskey when you come here. But we like it because Mac’s is just a phenomenal dive bar. It’s grimy but friendly if you play by the rules - which essentially boil down to three things: cash only, don’t touch the blinds, and don’t be an assh*le.
Lagniappe is proof that not all wine bars are quiet, dim places that feel more like libraries. This place gets packed and loud both inside - where you’ll find a weekly rotation of great jazz and plenty of good wine in a slightly cramped space - and outside, which is a back patio that all other back patios should aspire to be. There are string lights and tons of tables that look like they were collected from years of nearby garage sales. It’s hard to get one of those tables on the weekend - when they’re usually full of big groups or app dates - so come early or just do laps until you see an opening.
People love to ask what you’d bring with you if you were trapped on a desert island and sure, a lighter and a cell phone would be nice. But if we could bring one bar with us, it’d be Gramps. No other bar in Miami is as versatile. A week at this Wynwood spot includes trivia, bingo, live music, killer DJs, and the best drag show in town every Thursday night. Add to that the best cocktails in Wynwood, a very good Happy Hour, and Pizza Tropical’s fantastic NY-style pizza in the back, and we’d happily spend a few years alone with Gramps on an island.
There is really never a bad time to come to Sweet Liberty. They’ve got one of our favorite Happy Hours, with $0.95 oysters and some of the best cocktails in the city for only $6. The late-night scene is always fun without feeling sloppy. Sunday brunch is a blast too, whether you’re looking for bottomless rosé or a great fried chicken sandwich. This place is everything we love about South Beach: sexy and colorful and not afraid of a hot pink neon sign, without any of the nasty overpriced stuff you’ll eat and drink on Ocean Drive.
There are some questions that require a yes 100% of the time. Would you like fries with that? Would you like to upgrade to first class free of charge? Would you like to grab a drink at Broken Shaker? We will always want to come to this outdoor Miami Beach cocktail bar, where we can sip some of the best drinks in Miami, swim in the pool without being asked for our room number, and feel a solid 15% hipper thanks to the very cool tropical design we’ve tried - and failed - to emulate in our own tiny backyards. This place also earns bonus points for being 15 steps away from one of our favorite restaurants in Miami, 27.
Wetlab is an unremarkable bar in a remarkable place: it’s slightly hidden inside UM’s Marine and Atmospheric Science campus with a view of Biscayne Bay that makes even the priciest hotels in town jealous. Even though it’s on UM property, it’s completely open to the public Wednesday-Friday and feels like you’re on a scavenger hunt if you’ve never been here before. You will get lost trying to find it, walk past classrooms, smile as you remember your own college days, then cringe as you remember more of them, then sprint before the memory of that time you went streaking for free Jimmy John’s comes flooding back. You’ll find this place eventually, though, and be glad you did - especially if you come here at sunset, which is just spectacular.
Mama Tried is a bar that wears a lot of hats. The little Downtown spot can, depending on the night, feel like a dive bar or a cocktail bar or a neighborhood Happy Hour spot. They have good weekly and monthly event programming, like a very popular emo night. It’s the kind of place you end up after midnight, sweaty and ready to dance on their red carpet, which is shockingly clean for a bar carpet. Don’t come here expecting state-of-the-art cocktails. It’s mostly simple well drinks and beer, especially when they get busy on the weekends. But it’s always a fun spot, especially if you’re in the mood for loud music and maybe a shot or two.
As Wynwood grows more chaotic by the month, Boxelder becomes all the more important to those who just want good beer in a relaxed space where no one’s standing on top of the bar trying to pour warm tequila into their mouth. Boxelder is a beer bar, and they have a consistently awesome selection - a good mix of local brews with hard-to-find international options. There’s also a delicious food pop-up in their backyard most weekends, where you can find things like great burgers and chicken parm.
Palace isn’t strictly a bar. They serve food here too, but you really come here to drink and watch drag, which pretty much makes it a bar in our eyes. This place is open till 1am during the week (and usually later on weekends), but the best time to come here is for their famous drag brunch, when you get a couple hours of bottomless mimosas and the best sidewalk drag show of your life.
We prefer to treat Downtown’s Jaguar Sun like a restaurant. We make a reservation, sit down, order food, drinks, and leave incredibly happy every single time. However, Jaguar Sun is also a cocktail bar - and an outstanding one too. Their bar area, which is separate from the dining room, is a bit small. It can be tough to snag a seat during peak hours, but when you do, you can expect some of the best service and drinks in town. The fact that you can also order some oysters or pasta if you start to get hungry is an added bonus we’ll happily take.
Ball & Chain could very easily be just another tourist trap, but the historic bar’s great live music and quality cocktails make this a place both locals and out-of-towners enjoy immensely. The very popular bar is right in the middle of the busiest part of Calle Ocho, and it’s always a safe bet for good live Latin music without having to ever pay a cover. Ball & Chain originally opened in 1935 and Billie Holiday and Chet Baker both played here - which is pretty neat to think about as you sip a very solid mojito and watch a band on the backyard pineapple-shaped stage.
With all of Miami’s contributions to hip-hop, dance, and Latin music, it’s easy to forget about Miami’s rock scene. But if you’ve been to a show at this Little Haiti dive bar, you know it’s alive and well. Churchill’s has been in business since 1979, and all these years later it still specializes in punk, noise, hardcore, and various forms of live music with mosh pit potential. Of course, moshing is not necessary. You can still come here for a Happy Hour beer or the chill Monday night jazz show - as long as you’re cool with an aesthetic that feels like crust punks squatting inside a Flanigan’s.
The Anderson holds Miami’s longest-running liquor license and it looks like it’s kept a design aspect from every decade it’s been open. Inside, it’s vintage ’80s with cheetah print wallpaper, a disco ball, and lots of shiny mirrored surfaces. The backyard is old-school tropical tiki, with a little hut that’s one of our favorite places in Miami to get rum drunk and a taco stand right next to it in case you get hungry. This place isn’t very close to many other Miami bars, but walking from room to room can feel a little like bar hopping if that’s what you’re after.
NW 11th Street is generally a place you go if you’re trying to go clubbing for 11 hours straight, but The Corner is a great spot for people who’d like to stay away from those loud dance floors and offensively-priced beers. This neighborhood standby works for a solid cocktail at 4am or a Happy Hour beer and hot dog as the sun sets over Downtown. But The Corner - open till 8am on Friday and Saturday - is undoubtedly a late-night spot and generally the best choice for anyone out in the middle of the night who doesn’t want to go home yet and would like to be around people who feel the same way.
Nowhere in Miami is booking live, local music as often and as good as Las Rosas, which you can expect to see every weekend in one of the bar’s three rooms. That’s definitely a reason to come here, but it’s also just a fun spot - especially when you’re sick of people in very high heels and silky button-down shirts. You certainly can not buy a bottle or reserve a VIP section here, and don’t expect the complicated cocktails that every other place seems to be trying to nail either. At this Allapattah spot, it’s beer and basic well drinks, which is exactly what you want in a place where drawing on the walls is perfectly acceptable.
If you love professional wrestling and beer, then this might be your favorite bar in Miami. But even if you aren’t a diehard fan of either, you’ll still probably find this Calle Ocho spot refreshing and surprising in a good way. While most bars in the area specialize in live music and mojitos, Union Beer is a great spot to sit down for a conversation with zero pressure to salsa. They have a solid beer selection, a friendly crowd, free Pac-Man, and a constant stream of classic professional wrestling playing on the TVs so you can check out The Rock back when he still sported a Speedo.
Downtown’s Lost Boy used to be a denim store, but now it’s a casual, straightforward pub that serves very good cocktails, beer, and wine in a space with a lot of tables great for small groups who actually want to have a conversation. Out-of-towners might see Lost Boy as just another cool bar - and it is. But this place not only sparked a new wave of Downtown nightlife, it’s also given the city another thing it desperately needs: a quality bar that doesn’t rely on cheap tricks to get people through the door.
This historic bar is the best place to drink in Coconut Grove. There’s some comfortable outdoor seating for nice days and inside you can sip a bunch of different whiskeys in walls that look and feel like they’ve been here since 1920 (which they have). This place’s bar food game is also incredibly strong since they share a kitchen with their fantastic neighbors Ariete.