City in a Glass: Miami

Travel Features Miami
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Thirsty? You’re in luck. In Paste’s drinking-and-traveling series, City in a Glass, we mix up a city’s signature swills and slide them down the bar to readers. Grab a stool. This round is on us.


Many people

associate cocktails in glitzy Miami with the kind of two-ingredient “mixed drinks” that propel you through a night of clubbing. (Red Bulls and vodkas, anyone?) Other people may think of the beachside strawberry slushies that offer temporary respite from the Florida sun. Others still cling to the old rum-and-muddled-mint standby, the mojito. While all of those drinks serve their purposes well, Miami has plenty more to offer on the craft cocktail front. In fact, one of the city’s best modern bars, the internationally influenced Broken Shaker in the Freehand Hostel, is consistently named one of the best cocktail bars in the world.

On this city drinks tour, we’re going to introduce you to a few unusual, Latin-inspired drinks indicative of the Magic City. Here’s where to find them and even how to replicate them at home.

1. Calle Ocho Old Fashioned

Where to order: Ball and Chain

Miami, arguably the U.S.’s most global city, is only 330 miles from Cuba. This accounts for why the city’s Little Havana neighborhood has boomed for half a century. You can still walk down the neighborhood’s main street, Calle Ocho, and spot locals participating in traditional Cuban activities like playing games of dominos, rolling cigars and drinking Café Cubanos (espresso shots sweetened with demerara/raw sugar). For something a little stiffer, visit the historic Ball and Chain bar, which honors some of Cuba’s most cherished exports by incorporating them into cool, current cocktails. The most popular drink there is the Calle Ocho Old Fashioned (pictured at top), which is made of aged rum, demerara sugar and tobacco bitters—yes, as in cigar innards. The drink is strong and smoky and garnished with a tobacco leaf.

Calle Ocho Old Fashioned

2 oz. Bacardi 8-Year aged rum
¼ oz. demerara syrup (recipe below)
3 dashes tobacco bitters (can substitute with tobacco-flavored bitters)

Make demerara syrup: Combine 1 cup demerara or turbinado sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Make drink: Combine all ingredients plus ice in a mixing glass. Stir. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a tobacco leaf.


2. The Guac Is Extra

Where to order: Blackbird Ordinary

The Guac Is Extra.jpeg
Photo by Stephanie Quibano

Who says salsa doesn’t belong in a pint glass? At Blackbird Ordinary, a laid-back cocktail den in Brickell, bartender Stephanie Quibano has taken all the ingredients from her favorite homemade, tropical salsa and turned it into a cocktail. The Guac Is Extra (named after the eye-rolling refrain at Mexican restaurants stingy on the guacamole) is made of cilantro-infused vodka, avocado purée, mango purée, agave, lime juice and Tajin, a Mexican seasoning containing chile peppers, lime and salt. “I thought it would taste awesome as a cocktail,” she said. “These are flavors people are used to eating, not drinking. But they are surprisingly tasty in a glass too.”

When deciding which spirit to use in this Latin-inspired cocktail, she thought tequila would be the obvious choice. So she instead used vodka, the alcohol that many bartenders avoid using in cocktails because it is so neutral. “Vodka can be considered boring,” she says. “But with a little creativity, vodka can make interesting cocktails as well. Why not try it?”

The Guac Is Extra

2 oz. cilantro-infused Tito’s vodka (recipe below)
¾ oz. lime juice
½ oz. agave syrup
½ oz. mango purée (recipe below)
1 spoonful avocado purée (recipe below)
1 dash Tajin

Make cilantro-infused vodka: Add a bag of cilantro to a bottle of Tito’s vodka. Leave for five days. Strain.

Make mango purée: In a blender combine 1 ripe mango, chunked, a spoonful of sugar and a splash of lemon juice. Blend until smooth.

Make avocado purée: In a blender combine 1 ripe Florida avocado, chunked, a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper, a splash of lime juice and a splash of water. Blend until smooth.

Make drink: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake. Pour into a pint glass. Garnish with lime wheels.


3. Hemingway Daiquiri

Where to order: The Regent Cocktail Club

Hemingway Daquiri.jpeg
Photo courtesy Regent Cocktail Club

In the 1930s and 1940s writer Ernest Hemingway, who lived in nearby Key West, Florida, would make frequent trips to Havana. His favorite stop was El Floridita bar, but its renowned, simple daiquiri—rum, lime juice and sugar—didn’t quite fit his tastes. He convinced the bar to come up with a new version, which it then named after the famous tippler, that adds grapefruit juice to the drink and replaces the sugar with Maraschino (cherry) liqueur.

At the speakeasy-ish Regent Cocktail Club in Miami Beach, the Hemingway Daiquiri is treated with loving reverence and served in an antique coupe. “It is more sophisticated and complex than a regular daiquiri,” bar manager Julio Cabrera says. “We make both, but the Hemingway is more elegant and not so well known.” The Hemingway Daiquiri, also known as Papa Doble, is more sour and bitter than a traditional daiquiri. Hemingway preferred his blended with ice, but Cabrera likes it better shaken and strained. “It’s a refreshing, before dinner—really all day—drink.”

Hemingway Daiquiri

1 ½ oz. Bacardi Heritage rum
½ oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1 oz. grapefruit juice
½ oz. lime juice

Combine all ingredients plus ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake. Strain into a coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel.


City in a Glass columnist Alyson Sheppard writes about travel and hangovers for She currently resides in the great state of Texas.