The 20 best bars in Miami

By Time Out Miami contributors for timeout on Mar 02, 2018

Poolside lounges, dive joints, secret drinking dens and local watering holes all make the cut for the best bars in Miami

The flashy, Las Vegas-style clubs in Miami may get most of the attention in the Miami nightlife headlines, but there are plenty of other great places to grab a drink in the city. The best bars in Miami run the gamut from Miami rooftop bars with stunning views to top-notch cocktail dens helmed by award-winning mixologists. The best part? They don’t all require patrons to don flashy designer duds nor pay a cover charge just to pass through the velvet ropes. 

Best bars in Miami

Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company

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Where else can you order deviled eggs, a rum old fashioned and dance the night away to '90s hip-hop? Whatever you're feeling, Sweet Liberty is the place to pursue it (and not just because a “purse happiness” sign hangs boldly on the wall). The so-called bartender's bar is both a critical success and a neighborhood favorite. The reason? It’s got something for everyone. Pop in on a Saturday night to find people of all ages dancing to old-school tunes, singing along to the live band (which changes often) or tucked away in a booth enjoying a beer. When it comes to cocktails, award-winning bartender John Lermayer’s drink menu is equal parts innovation and celebration of the classics with a few minor twists, like what you’ll find in the Black Salt Sour—which takes its name from the unusual black salt used for garnishing. Daily happy hour (4–7pm) features $5 cocktails and $.75 oysters, plus other bites—a steal for a good time in an area known for big-name clubs and white-linen dining.

BY: VIRGINIA GIL

POSTED: TUESDAY MAY 31 2016

Employees Only

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Following its time as a pop-up bar during 2016’s Art Basel Miami Beach (when drinks were just $5!), the cult-favorite speakeasy Employees Only has opened a permanent location in South Beach, on the property of the Washington Park Hotel. NYC concepts don’t always translate well when they make the move to Miami, but Employees Only is a clear winner in the Magic City. Its vintage decor blends effortlessly with the vibes of Miami Beach. And loyal patrons of the perpetually packed West Village location can rest easy knowing that the Billionaire Cocktail and hand-cut steak tartare are still served alongside several 305 exclusives. 

BY: VIRGINIA GIL

POSTED: THURSDAY FEBRUARY 16 2017

The Anderson

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Indulge your sense of nostalgia and love for ’80s kitsch at this MiMO gem, injecting new life into the former Magnum Lounge space—home to Miami’s oldest bar. Much of what’s left and all of what’s been added seems frozen in time, harkening back to decades when David Bowie ruled, Pac-Man not Candy Crush was what you did to blow off your friends and music came from a jukebox. The result is the collective efforts of Broken Shaker/Bar Lab's Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi and the Workshop Collective's Jourdan Binder, plus Vagabond chef Alex Chang, who the guys enlisted to helm the eccentric bar menu (think cool-ranch beef crackling and French escargot). The cocktails menu is in keeping with the old-school theme, striking a balance between classics like the Sex on the Beach and new favorites, such as the rum-based Nobody Puts Baby In a Corner.

POSTED: FRIDAY APRIL 8 2016

Broken Shaker

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The Broken Shaker at everyone’s favorite high-end hostel, The Freehand, started as a pop-up cocktail bar before becoming something more permanent—and its success as a mainstay kicked off the Mid-Beach neighborhood’s renaissance. Inside, the tiny award-winning bar is like the love child of New Orleans and Paris, while the outdoor courtyard and poolside area feel very Eden: old-school fountain, mismatched and wildly patterned chairs, lush trees. The cocktail list changes every 10 days based on what’s fresh, and most ingredients are grown or made on the property. The drinks skew tropical and tiki, but the bartenders are fully equipped to serve anything you request. The brains behind the Shaker also oversee the food and beverage program at 27 Restaurant, the neighboring eatery located inside a quintessential Florida house from the 1930s.

BY: GALENA MOSOVICH

POSTED: TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 1 2015

Ball & Chain

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Everything you need to know about this Little Havana gem, Ball & Chain (1513 SW 8th St). 

Today’s Ball & Chain is a recreation of a 1930s hotspot that once occupied the same space and welcomed jazz superstars like Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Chet Baker to its stage. Across from the historic Tower Theater, the Ball & Chain has its own storied past filled with Jewish and Cuban community influences. 

Cuban food and festive cocktails 

The bar program, created by the top mixologists at the Regent Cocktail Club, is a smattering of classics (margaritas and mojitos) and new-wave drinks unique to Ball & Chain. We recommend sampling a few Cuban-inspired cocktails: the Mojito Criollo (made the classic way with the mint leaves left intact for enhanced aroma, and more sugar), the Canita (white rum, lime, house-made honey syrup, guarapo or sugarcane juice, sugarcane stick) and the Pastelito Daiquiri (pastelito-infused aged rum, lime, simple syrup, and a side of pastelitos or guava pastries). 

While you won't go to Ball & Chain for a full meal, the restaurant's menu of small bites make for delectable bar snacks. Order enough and you could be enjoying an incredible tapas-style dinner. The Cuban sandwich rolls are a definite crowd pleaser—think deep-fried layers of roasted pork and ham—as are the fried plantain chips. You can never eat just one.

Music, then and now

Who performed at Ball & Chain? The better question is, who didn't? Most of the country's greatest jazz musicians have graced the stage at Ball & Chain, from Count Bassie and Nat King Cole to Tito Puente, Jr. These days, local bands such as Spam Allstars and crooners such as the likes of Brendan O'Hara are part of the regular circuit of performers at the club's unique pineapple stage. Expect live jazz at 6pm sharp Thursday through Saturday. On Saturdays, a wild Cuban fiesta, La Pachanga, kicks off around 9pm when salsa dancers take to the bar. 

Our Miami editorial team is constantly updating and reviewing the best attractions, activities and venues across the city, so that you're always in the know, with the best of Miami at your fingertips. Ball & Chain was most recently updated with new tips on June 28, 2017.

POSTED: WEDNESDAY JUNE 28 2017

Sugar | Miami, FL

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Everything you need to know about visiting Sugar in Brickell (788 Brickell Plaza, Miami, FL 33131).

The elevator will pass 40 floors before you finally reach, Sugar, the ultra trendy rooftop lounge at the EAST hotel that’s quickly become one of the most popular bars in Brickell. Remain patient and soon you’ll be rewarded with 360-views of the city and surrounding waterways, Asian-themed cocktails (like the Sweet Life, a sugar-y cocktail blended with Thai iced tea, lemon and whiskey) and a place that feels more like a secluded, storybook garden than a bar.

When to go

It’s an unfortunate side effect of a popular bar, but if you time it wrong, you will have to wait in line to get to Sugar. And sometimes that line is very long. On Friday and Saturday nights, that line is almost always very long. The bar is small—maybe the size of a basketball court—so capacity is limited. If you really don’t want to wait, your best bet is to arrive early, before the happy hour crowd, and you should be fine.

The cocktails

The cocktail menu is simple, but should have something for everyone. A drink will cost you $12 to $15—a typical price for Brickell. The Lychee Blossom (vodka, sake and lychee) is a popular choice. There are rye, rum and gin-based options as well. We recommend the East of Miami, a refreshing zip of ginger, lime, green tea and gin that goes perfectly with the skyscraper vibes.

Getting there

When going really anywhere in Brickell, it’s always safe to assume that you shouldn’t drive. Parking sucks in Miami’s financial district and, during rush hour, traffic can be an absolute mess. Luckily, there are Ubers on every block in Brickell. An even better option is the Metromover, Miami’s public transportation service that is actually highly efficient for getting around Brickell and downtown. The closest station to Sugar is Eighth Street station. Some Metromover stops have an attendant working them. If you’re confused about which one to hop on, just ask.

Our Miami editorial team is constantly updating and reviewing the best attractions, activities and venues across the city, so that you're always in the know, with the best of Miami at your fingertips. Sugar was most recently updated with new tips on June 29, 2017.

BY: RYAN PFEFFER

POSTED: THURSDAY JUNE 29 2017

Rácket

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Fans of the popular Miami Beach Korean joint Drunken Dragon and its sister speakeasy Foxhole should plan a trip to Wynwood to check out the group’s newest concept: Rácket. The huge, airy cocktail bar has taken over a warehouse on one of the booziest streets in Wynwood: NW 24th Street, sandwiched between Gramps and J. Wakefield Brewing. Rácket features two adjacent rooms, each slightly different in terms of cocktails and ambiance. The atrium is a bit more laid back. Couches sit in front of bar specializing in tiki-influenced tequila, rum and mescal cocktails. Past the atrium bar, the main room feels more like a lounge for the late-night crowd.

BY: RYAN PFEFFER

POSTED: FRIDAY JANUARY 5 2018

El Patio Wynwood

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El Patio is unlike anything in Wynwood—which, considering the depth of options in the trendy art district, is high praise. The mostly outdoor bar manages to be intriguing enough for visiting tourists, while maintaining a loyal following of locals. The relatively new spot is Latin— Colombian, specifically—and shows its influence everywhere you turn. Certain furniture was actually shipped over from Colombia, the homeland of co-owner Nicolas Hoyos, which gives the bar a funky abuela vibe, and resident DJ, Mr. Pauer, curates a masterful playlist of old school Latin, reggae, electro, and everything in between to guarantee hips never stop shaking. Add to all that one of Wynwood’s best happy hours (featuring $1 beers and $4 cocktails) and you’ve got a place worth showing up early and staying late.

BY: RYAN PFEFFER (DO NOT USE)

POSTED: TUESDAY FEBRUARY 7 2017

Gramps Bar

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The sign out front says it all: air conditioning, beer and cocktails. What more could you want in perpetually hot Miami? Perhaps weekly karaoke or a variety of local brews on tap? Don't forget the cocktails too (especially the Moscow mule). After a couple of those, walk outside and grab a slice from Gramps own tiny restaurant, Pizza Tropical. This Wynwood bar—which has stayed amazingly true to its character in the trendy art district—is popular for a reason and also hosts live comedy (Hannibal Buress and Eric Andre have stopped by for surprise sets) and live music from rising stars like Angel Olsen and Mitski.   

BY: VIRGINIA GIL

POSTED: TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 20 2016

Lagniappe

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A night at Lagniappe feels like a backyard bash at a friend’s—if said friend had a spacious yard filled with mismatched lawn furniture and strung-up bistro lights. It’s all very casual here: Walk in, pick your bottle from the cooler (generally stocked from small-production wineries) and take your selection to the register, where it’s uncorked before you head to the back to enjoy. 

POSTED: TUESDAY APRIL 7 2015

Blackbird Ordinary

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If drinking tequila and/or whiskey into the wee hours is your idea of a great night out, welcome home. Truth be told, there’s nothing ordinary about Blackbird; in a town full of blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em bars, this one’s got a distinct personality. And staying power too. Take your libations straight up or in a handcrafted cocktail. The signature Blackbird—a mix of sweet tea vodka, fresh lemonade and blackberries served on the rocks—is the perfect antidote to the sizzling south Florida sun.

POSTED: THURSDAY FEBRUARY 19 2015

The Corner

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This dark corner bar is a far cry from its outrageous neighbors in downtown Miami’s nightclub district, though it’s become a popular spot pre or post E11even, the adjacent 24-hour strip club. Step inside Miami’s version of a saloon for a closer look at the impressive back bar. Craving a scotch from way up top? No problem. The barkeeps here use a wooden ladder to navigate the extensive collection of spirits (a solid list of craft beers and wines is also available). Cocktails like the La Tacubaya (tequila, Green Chartreuse, lime juice, hibiscus, agave syrup and habanero bitters) are made with the freshest ingredients. Appreciative locals pack the bar and sidewalk every night of the week, though Tuesdays attract an especially hipster-heavy crowd—perhaps it’s the live jazz? Surviving the late-night revelry is more likely if you fuel up on tasty bar bites.  

POSTED: THURSDAY FEBRUARY 26 2015

Melinda’s

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The former first floor of Wynwood dance music mainstay Electric Pickle has been converted into something a tad more civilized, a cozy mezcal bar. Melinda's is warm, with leather booths and wooden tables. It's more sit-down-and-drink than stand-up-and-mingle. The cocktails all revolve around mescal—and there is even a mescal slushy that is actually quite tasty and nowhere near as questionable as it sounds (get it and all other drinks 50 percent off during happy hour from 6pm to 9pm.) A light menu of bar snacks (nachos, chips and crudo plates) are available and, once you're done, you can still walk outside, climb the stairs and find yourself dancing till the wee hours at the Pickle. It's a Wynwood match made in heaven. 

BY: RYAN PFEFFER

POSTED: WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 14 2018

Better Days

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Brickell can feel a bit too fancy sometimes, but that's not the case at Better Days—a neighborhood bar the area sorely needed. The laid-back vibes and quality cocktails pair well with the local crowd, who often stop by after work to loosen their ties at happy hour. For a drink with pals, a round of pool with friends or a drink at the bar, the kitschy watering hole services all. Popular nights include Monday, when happy hour is endless for ladies, and trivia on Wednesdays at 8pm.

BY: RYAN PFEFFER

POSTED: TUESDAY MAY 16 2017

Wood Tavern

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Art galleries run rampant in Wynwood, but honest-to-goodness pubs? Not so much. Which makes Wood Tavern a particularly welcome addition to the neighborhood (and a great pit stop before or after a movie at the arty O Cinema Wynwood). The backyard patio features communal picnic table seating, making it easy to strike up conversation with a neighbor.

POSTED: THURSDAY FEBRUARY 19 2015

Ricky's South Beach

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If it wasn’t for Ricky’s killer cocktail menu and assortment of craft beers, you’d think the South Beach bar was kid friendly. Thankfully, this nostalgic bar is for the adults. It’s got arcade games, Artichoke Pizza sold by the slice and plenty of adult-friendly activities. Grownups will especially love the ’80s jams and live band karaoke on Mondays.

BY: VIRGINIA GIL

POSTED: WEDNESDAY MARCH 15 2017

Foxhole Bar

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On the bay side of South Beach—far removed from the main tourist and nightclub drag—Foxhole Bar means it when it refers to itself as an "upscale locals’ joint." This late-night hotspot is still jumping as the sun starts to rise, with Miamians jockeying for position among the plush banquettes or playing darts and pool. At the beginning of the night, early birds can take advantage of the weekday happy hour (5pm to 8pm), offering $3 beers and $5 cocktails.

POSTED: TUESDAY MAY 31 2016

MO Bar and Lounge

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MO Bar and Lounge in the Mandarin Oriental is the most elegant bar in town: The cocktails are refined and the panoramic view of Brickell’s skyline is extraordinary. And while it certainly caters to glamorous connoisseurs, the bar also manages to remain accessible to curious newcomers yearning for a taste of the city’s cocktail scene. The bartenders know their stuff and they like talking, an unexpected treat for bar-goers who want a meaningful conversation about what they’re drinking and why it’s so special. For limitless chatter, order a quintessential island treat by way of the legendary Hemingway Daiquiri, a hand-shaken union of rum, Maraschino liqueur, fresh grapefruit and lime juice. 

BY: GALENA MOSOVICH

POSTED: TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 1 2015

The Regent Cocktail Club

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The lauded addition to the Collins Avenue cocktail crawl continues to gain plenty of accolades, as cordial mixologists—waistcoats and all—pour deliciously inventive drinks in a space that feels worlds away from the hustle of South Beach, yet is in the heart of it all. The Club’s retro stylings, complete with leather banquettes, live lounge music and a side patio for cigar smoking, make it feel as if the Rat Pack could walk through the door at any moment.

POSTED: TUESDAY APRIL 10 2018

Mac's Club Deuce

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It’s surprising the Deuce has even got a phone. The place is charmingly out of character for the area—a mere block from the ocean—and "eclectic" doesn’t begin to describe the mix of South Beach denizens who gather here nightly. From transsexual hookers and down-and-out locals to nightclub glitterati and slumming celebs, the Deuce attracts the motliest, coolest, scariest crowd of any bar in Miami. (Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has often touted his love of this place.) We’ve been beaten here at pool by a go-go-ing blonde, shared cigarettes with a real-life cowboy and traded shots of JD with a writer of erotic fiction. For anyone who ever fancied a bit part in a Charles Bukowski story, this dive bar would be the right place to audition.

POSTED: THURSDAY MARCH 1 2018

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