The Best Bars In South Beach

South Beach bars you’ll actually want to drink at.
The Best Bars In South Beach  image

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South Beach is to bad bars what Wisconsin is to cheese. And if you’re not careful, you’ll end up at a place that serves margaritas by the gallon and sneakily includes a 99% tip on your tab. But it’s not all scammers and gross cocktails in South Beach. There are bars making some of the best martinis in Miami, one of the city's best outdoor bars, and chill places to sit and listen to jazz. And if you're looking for some food along the way, check out our guide to the best restaurants in South Beach.


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There is really never a bad time to come to Sweet Liberty. They’ve got one of our favorite Happy Hours, with cheap oysters and some of the best cocktails in the city. The late-night scene is fun without feeling sloppy, and the bar food here is top-notch, with a great fried chicken sandwich and potato chips and caviar. 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. Also, if you are a piña colada, order theirs. It's a triumph.

Swizzle is a bar that feels like a cross between a tiki bar and a speakeasy—or a tiki-easy, which is a word we just made up that’s as fun to say as this bar is to drink at. Even though it’s only three short steps below the lobby, Swizzle is dim, cozy, and will make you feel like you’re in the hull of an old wooden ship. The drink menu is extensive and unanimously excellent, especially the swizzle cocktails.

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El Salón is a cocktail bar on Española Way. And despite its home on one of South Beach’s more touristy streets, Salón feels secluded. It’s slightly hidden in an alley and is a great place to hide from those tourists while sipping a very good martini. The drink menu features a selection of Salón’s own blended spirits, which you can order neat or put to use in their cocktails. It's a perfect spot to bring a date you’re trying to impress with your knowledge of cozy, secluded bars. They do have food but the drinks are much better, so prioritize spending your money on those.

Among the Maseratis and billion-dollar hotels you’ll find up and down South Beach is Mac’s. This is Miami’s best dive bar, and has been the most reliable place to escape South Beach in South Beach for well over 50 years. It’s dark, grimey, has a two-for-one Happy Hour special from 8am-5pm daily (seriously), and feels like a place where they’d film an episode of Miami Vice. In fact, they did—and the neon sign that hangs above the bar was installed by the television show’s crew. Not much has changed here since then. It's also one of the few Miami bars you can still smoke inside of.

Between the sleek space and the abstract menu designed like a PAMM brochure, Bey Bey on Sunset Harbor has a showy nonchalance that feels cool. The intrigue slips a little once your food arrives, though (it's just fine). Still, the space works for cocktails, wine, and maybe a slice of sweet, tangy labneh cheesecake on a limestone table. But make a reservation. The space isn't very big and if you try to walk in, you might have to sit outside.

Bar Derrière is a wine bar where you can get a bottle for $50 to $60 and drink it in a cute alleyway that feels pleasantly secluded. The space is actually part of À la Folie Café, a good French spot on the west end of Española Way—where the touristy street gets a little less touristy. It has an antique store thing going on, with mismatched tables for small groups and prices that are quite reasonable for the area. You can just drink here, but you can also order food from À la Folie. They have a lot of wine bar-appropriate French snacks, like charcuterie, foie gras maison, and paté served with baguette.

Medium Cool lives in a pleasant sweet spot between club and cocktail bar. If you’d prefer more of a cocktail lounge atmosphere, come earlier, particularly for the jazz night (Thursday through Saturday from 7-10pm). After 10pm, the bottle service crowd starts to arrive, a DJ replaces the live music, and Medium Cool becomes an intimate club. The cocktails are solid and the crowd is much more tolerable than 99% of the South Beach bottle service spots. The key to a good experience here is knowing what kind of vibe you’re after, and timing your visit accordingly. 

So Broken Shaker is technically in Mid-Beach. But, it’s really not that far from South Beach, and if you’re looking for places to drink in the area it’s worth considering. The outdoor bar is immensely popular because it’s a beautiful space with poolside seating and a lush landscape. Broken Shaker also has one of the best cocktail menus in the city. If you’re coming on a weekend night, expect a crowd (and maybe even a line to get in). Still, it’s one of our favorite places to drink in Miami—when we can find an open seat.

Minibar is located inside South of Fifth’s Urbanica Hotel. It’s technically a hotel bar, but locals drink here too. Like the name implies, it’s a very tiny place, though they also have some courtyard seating that makes things a tad more spacious. Despite the square footage, it’s one of the South of Fifth’s better drinking options—especially if you’re looking for something more casual. Cocktails are simple but tasty, and Happy Hour is from 5-9pm, a good call if you want to drink cheap in one of South Beach’s most expensive neighborhoods.

Most hotel lobby bars in South Beach solely exist for tourists, but Water Lion is an exception. The tiny wine bar located inside the Sagamore is a lovely place to hide from the mayhem that’s always happening outside on Collins. Here, there’s a nice selection of wines by the glass and sake cocktails, some excellent bar snacks, and bartenders who are actually happy to see you. It’s a great pre-dinner drinks option, but we’d also come back here just for a glass of lambrusco, perfectly shucked oysters, and prosciutto-wrapped deviled eggs.

If you’re looking for a sophisticated cocktail bar that’ll make you feel slightly James Bond-ish, head to Monterrey Bar. The upscale cocktail spot is located in The Standard. The small room can seat just over 20 people, with couch seating, a beautiful T-shaped bar, and dim lighting that’ll make you want to dramatically sip your cocktail like an evil villain slowly revealing their evil plot. Those cocktails are great and also range from $18 to $24. So, you know—not cheap. They offer some small plates as well. It’s not a bad idea to come early, because this place can fill up fast.

Tropezón is an Andalusian gin and tapas bar on Española Way that is, admittedly, more of a restaurant than a bar. But you can certainly still come here just to drink—and have a blast doing so. There's a long bar where you can sit alongside legs of jamón dangling from the ceiling. They have a selection of delicious infused gin, with infusions ranging from mango to nori and shio kombu. You can put them to use in a cocktail, but they’re also great served neat and chilled. And if you do happen to get hungry, the food is very good too.

ScapeGoat is another very small cocktail bar in South of Fifth, where you might see the bartender climb into the ceiling to fetch a bottle from the attic. The cocktails here are very good, but the atmosphere shifts depending on the time and day. Come early and you can have a relaxed conversation and a drink before dinner. On weekend nights, it can get a little crowded and loud enough that having a conversation might require mild yelling. It’s also a good place to kill time if you’re waiting for a table at Joe’s, which is just down the street.

The Abbey is a charming little divey pub in South Beach that has lots of beer, a full liquor bar, and is really the only place you want to be drinking on or near Lincoln Road. Abbey is our favorite place to grab a beer and play darts if we’re in the area and need to kill some time or just wait for traffic to die down. The beer selection is great too—way beyond a few simple domestic options.

Palace isn’t strictly a bar. They serve food, but you really come here to drink and watch drag, which makes it a bar in our eyes. The iconic gay bar 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.

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