The Miami Bar Hit List: Where To Drink Right Now
Where to drink right now in Miami.
In order to help you figure out which new restaurants are worth going to, we created The Hit List, our guide to the new spots that are actually worth your time and money. And we do the same thing for the best new bars in Miami. All the places we visited are less than a year old, and they include outdoor music venues, natural wine bars, and incredibly fun cocktail spots. But what do they all have in common? We’ve visited them, really liked them, and felt they were well worth the varying degrees of hangover.
photo credit: Courtesy Higher Ground
Higher Ground is a Wynwood cocktail bar inside a hotel that, depending on which night you go, is either a great place to hide from the chaotic nightlife of Wynwood, or partake in a more sophisticated version of it. The cocktail bar is broken up into three different rooms (one of which has a pool table). And there’s also an outdoor deck that feels like a rooftop even though it’s not technically on the roof. The cocktails are very good, and—whether for a relaxed drink after work or a crowded Saturday night party—Higher Ground should be in your Wynwood bar rotation.
photo credit: Cleveland Jennings
Kaiju is a cocktail bar inside The Citadel food hall in Little River, and it has one of the best cocktail menus in Miami. The menu itself is a fun little anime-inspired zine with great drinks named after different mythical monsters. They are the kind of impressively engineered cocktails you’ll want to sip slowly and appreciate, which is actually difficult because they’re so good you might chug them like a post-recess Capri Sun. Kaiju is located in what looks like a fancy bird’s nest on The Citadel second floor, and can only fit about a dozen people. But If there are no open seats at the glowing red bar, there’s overflow seating just outside.
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photo credit: Courtesy Miami Sound Bar
Miami Sound Bar
Miami Sound Bar is a cocktail bar in Downtown inspired by the Japanese listening bars that have become an international trend—and are starting to catch on in Miami too with places like Dante's HiFi. But this is one trend we can get behind, because we quite enjoy sipping cocktails in dark rooms while DJs play vinyl on excellent sound systems. And that’s exactly what you can do at Miami Sound Bar. This place also takes reservations, which is a smart idea since the narrow space is a tight squeeze, and it’ll be comforting to know you have a guaranteed seat (especially if you’re coming here on a date). The cocktails are very good and they have a couple bar snacks too.
photo credit: Cleveland Jennings
The Gibson Room (which used to be The Mighty) is a bar and restaurant on Coral Way. This spot comes from the Ariete team, which explains why the menu is a lot more creative (and tasty) than what’s at your average bar. They serve an impressively crispy chicken schnitzel, strozzapreti with diced ham, foie gras flan, and more. Coming here hungry is certainly a good idea, but it’s a great place to hang out regardless. Sit at the perfectly dim bar with a martini, think of names for each of the animal heads lining the wall, and enjoy the live music and vinyl DJs they host every night.
The NIU Kitchen team’s latest pivot, NIU Wine, has almost immediately become our favorite spot for a low-key night out, date, or particularly exhausting Thursday that calls for a glass of wine and an excellent panna cotta. The narrow space still has the intimate dinner party energy of NIU Kitchen (which is now located a few doors down the street)—with candlelight, tables perfect for couples, and lots of natural wine. There’s not really a wine menu. You just chat with the owner, and she’ll bring you some bottles to try. There is a rotating food menu, though, and it’s full of wine bar appropriate tapas like bacalhau with sofrito aioli, charcuterie, and a spiced chocolate truffle you definitely want alongside a glass of that red you picked because you liked the label.
photo credit: Jen Castro
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 on an alley just off Española Way, 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. The space—dim and intimate—is perfect for 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.
Tropezón is an Andalusian gin and tapas bar on Española Way—a short walk and appropriate bar-hopping distance from El Salón. This place feels a bit more like a restaurant than a bar to us, but you can certainly still come here just to drink (and have a blast doing so). The space—a 50/50 split between a bar and dining room—has a snug interior featuring lots of wood and legs of jamón hanging from the ceiling. They have a selection of 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 just fantastic served neat and chilled.
Epoca is a brewery perfect for nights when you want an excellent beer, some personal space, and would like to enjoy both those things somewhere other than your couch. Thanks to its slightly secluded location off a North Miami sidestreet, Epoca is pretty chill—good for a date or low key Friday night out. But the space is also really sleek and has an aesthetic that feels more like a cocktail bar than your average concrete-heavy brewery. There’s also a great outdoor patio, an occasional food truck parked outside, and the house beers we tasted during our visit were outstanding—especially the guava IPA.
Back in October, we had to say goodbye to Boxelder, one of the few remaining bars in Wynwood we actually liked. This was sad, but there was a silver lining: part of the Boxelder team and the chef from Taquiza were planning to open a nano-brewery and restaurant in Little River called Off Site. That bar is finally here. Like Boxelder, Off Site is a small, chill space perfect for a beer and a conversation. Unlike Boxelder, they have a kitchen and are serving some of the best bar food you’ll find in Miami. There’s a Cuban sandwich with bread pressed crispy enough to play shuffleboard on. Their huge (but not unmanageable) fried chicken sandwich just might be the best version in town. And there are more delicious looking things—like wings, a housemade hot dog, and a burger—that we’ll be back to try very soon. We still miss Boxelder—but we miss it a little less now that Off Site is here.
If you’re looking for a sophisticated cocktail bar that’ll make you feel slightly James Bond-ish, head to Monterrey Bar. The new cocktail spot is located in Miami Beach’s The Standard. The small room can seat just over 20 people, with couch seating, a really 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 (especially the High Tropic, a sort of highball/piña colada mashup) and also range from $18 to $24. They offer some small plates as well, like roasted bone marrow and truffled tater tots. It’s not a bad idea to come early, because this place can fill up fast.
Terras at Life House Little Havana
Terras isn’t new, but it gets a spot on the Hit List because it was closed for the last year and just reopened. This is good news because we really loved (and still love) the Little Havana rooftop spot. In fact, it’s our favorite rooftop in town—thanks to both the great cocktails and the wonderful view of the Downtown skyline. They serve food here as well, including small plates like queso fundido, hearts of palm salad, and short rib birria tacos—but you’re mostly coming here to drink. The space is pretty and not too claustrophobic—great for a date or catching up with a few friends. And even though it’s on the roof of a hotel, it’s not annoyingly touristy.
Dante’s HiFi is a Wynwood bar and “listening room.” This doesn’t mean that everyone is sitting in silence and listening to music (this is Miami after all, a city incapable of silence). But it does mean that this place has an absolutely spectacular sound system, and a really incredible record collection. DJs take turns spinning songs from that collection, occasionally hopping on the mic to give some context about what they’re playing. And while all this is going on, you can order good cocktails, snack on wasabi peas, and mentally calculate how much money you need to save in order to install these speakers in your own home. Reservations are recommended, and you can make one online.