Cultured Cocktailing at The Hoxton
by kris conesa
Santiago Rodriguez has seen a lot of hip things. As director of operations for Nobu International, he’s traveled the world, and because of that, he knew exactly what he wanted when he opened Brickell’s most talked-about venue, The Hoxton.
Combining London bar culture with a distinct Magic City coolness and some New England ease, Rodriguez and his designers, brothers Michael and Sean Saladino of Saladino Design Studios, created The Hoxton to be an “urban beach house.” Large-scale black-and-white photos of Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and Sophia Loren adorn the walls high above oversize loveseats covered in blue ticking stripes; dark woods meet cool whites; and teak footstools double as side tables perfectly placed to hold a highball or lobster roll. There’s even an oriental-rug-covered stage where guests will find live music Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
To be sure, this isn’t your father’s beach house, but walking into The Hoxton for the first time instantly transports you to some glamorous seaside hideaway where high concept meets down home.
“In my mind, the way I envisioned it was like this whole rock ’n’ roll beach house. The vibe was as if you had taken your parents’ beach house in Southampton and made it your own,” says Sean Saladino. “It isn’t stuffy; it isn’t pretentious. It’s very young at heart. It’s an edgy beach house but still chic.
“I have to give Santiago credit. He’s really like a designer’s dream client,” Saladino continues. “He really gets it. He doesn’t want the norm. He wants something different, and you get that vibe from everything he does, the way the drinks are made, the way he staffs the place. You get that you’re definitely not in Brickell anymore.”
So what does Rodriguez have to say about his latest venture? We caught up with him and asked.
OCEAN DRIVE: Why did you choose Saladino Design Studios from all the other interior designers you could have gone with?
SANTIAGO RODRIGUEZ: The Saladino brothers are from Miami, they’re very easy to work with, and they’re honest. I’ve known them for about 10 years, and there’s just a good chemistry between us.
You lived in London a good part of your life. How did that play into the concept?
London is a good place to drink. I feel like London, where I lived from ’96 to 2001, is where the whole mixologist trend started, this trend you see now of bartenders using excellent-quality ingredients to create drinks and actually taking the profession of being a bartender seriously.
How did your experience as director of operations for Nobu International help you open your own place?
Working with Nobu for 15 years and traveling the world on its behalf gave me the opportunity to see different things around the planet. Wherever I went, I gained different experiences. For example, when we opened Nobu in Dubai, there were another 15 venues opening there. So it gave me a chance to see what other people were doing, and that gave me a lot of ideas.
Your menu also has a distinct New England touch to it. Was that intentional?
The food is very bar-oriented, but we definitely try to give it the New England touch. We have a fantastic lobster roll, a clambake, a lot of seafood, and fantastic fried chicken. We are not trying to reinvent New England cuisine; we just want to make simple but very good food. I love how simple and honest New England cuisine is.
What are some of your favorite drinks?
The Hoxton Lemonade. It’s a long drink, very refreshing, made with vodka, strawberries, and ginger beer; it’s the Gatorade of after 6 o’clock. The Honey Ryder, which is made in a rocks glass with blackberries, honey syrup, bourbon, and rosemary, is more my type of drink, though. I also like a scotch or single malt.
Why did you choose this location as opposed to the Beach or Midtown?
I like how Brickell is surrounded by all of these young professionals. The clientele here is local, not seasonal like on the Beach, where you have a lot of tourists and your business is dependent on seasonal factors. Plus, it’s a lot easier from a financial point of view to open a restaurant here. I feel like Brickell, and this side of the bridge in general, is becoming the coolest place in Miami.
photography by gary james