By Jon Warech | April 1, 2016 | Food & Drink
We speak to Miami bartenders about the nightlife scene.
What are your favorite parts of the Hyde bar menu?
The Earl Grey Aviation—it’s a play on an old-school Aviation, which is a gin-based Prohibition-style cocktail. The fun for me was bringing in the Earl Grey tincture and the orgeat almond syrup, instead of doing the traditional crème de violette.
Is there a difference between an indoor and an outdoor drink?
Our beach bar is geared toward feet in the sand and drink in your hand. Our Tequila Mockingbird is basically a spicy margarita with a little bell pepper. There’s a muddled serrano pepper in it, so that makes it a little spicier.
You do a lot of off-menu drink-making on the spot. Does that add a twist to the job?
I really enjoy doing it on the fly. It’s been nice learning [with the team] and playing off of each other. If somebody says they want a certain spirit, I already have a couple of ideas on how to build something they’ll enjoy. Some of them are willing to try really versatile drinks.
What do you recommend when people come to you for a different cocktail?
I’ve been a strong advocate of trying to get people back to the way drinking used to be years ago, when people enjoyed a little more complex flavors. I feel like the American palate has definitely gone backwards.
What ingredient do you love?
My favorite is chartreuse. It’s an important ingredient that’s really old school that people often just don’t understand. It’s a bit of a lost art, but these days, I’m starting to see a resurgence of certain things. 111 S. Surf Road, Hallandale Beach, 954-699-0901
What’s the most experimental cocktail you have?
The Inside Outside In that’s been infused with pineapple, anise, and cinnamon. We put it in a vacuum chamber and we infuse it that way rather [than use] the traditional methods.
You’ve climbed the ranks at bars around town. What’s diff erent about creating a new menu for a new place?
With an opening, you’re starting with a blank slate. I was able to work with a lot of the flavors the chef is using to develop my menu.
Where does your inspiration come from?
One of my inspirations is Dave Arnold, who is the closest thing we have to a scientist in the cocktail world. That “Strange” section [of the menu, with the Inside Outside In] is essentially inspired by him and his cocktail program at Booker and Dax in New York.
You grew up in Miami. Does spending so much time here help with menu creativity?
I have friends from all over the world who happen to live in Miami. That inspired a lot of the things that I do. I’m always trying to pull from various cultural influences when I’m thinking about my menu the same way the chef thinks about his.
You went to school at Tulane. Did you bring anything from your time in New Orleans to your bar?
Just the insane amounts of debauchery. 2637 N. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-699-2637
What do locals love to drink?
People down here like spice. They’re not afraid of a twist on a cocktail that includes a little jalapeño or some sort of hellfire bitters. We also get a lot of snowbirds South of Fifth who have progressive palates, so it pushes us to keep coming up with twists on classic cocktails that maybe no one has ever had before.
What’s the process for creating two totally different menus?
Radio Bar is a local bar where you can really experiment with all genres of cocktails. Red Ginger is a pan-Asian restaurant, so we focus on small, boutique hard-to-find sakes and extraordinary Japanese whiskeys, while keeping that South of Fifth atmosphere.
What’s the latest trend?
Our Radio Mule is the most popular. It’s a twist on a Moscow Mule that adds blueberry and basil flavor into the classic cocktail. People here also love mezcal, so we have a cocktail called Earth Wind and Fire with cucumber, fennel, mezcal, and a little bit of sage. It’s got that wow factor.
What are you experimenting with?
At Red Ginger, we’re working truffle into our cocktails and yuzu, and we use some unique Japanese sodas. At Radio, we don’t like to repeat a flavor, so we’ve used dragon fruit, passion fruit, fresh watermelon, black peppercorn, mango, and a lot of tropical flavors. We’ve also played around with oysters in our Bloody Marys. Radio Bar, 814 First St., Miami Beach, 305-397-8382; Red Ginger, 736 First St., Miami Beach, 305-433-6876
For The Broken Shaker and 27, you grow your own ingredients.
We’ve had to learn how to not kill off our entire crop at once, so we’re getting into a lot of jams and preserves and also vinegars and shrubs. That’s been really fun. It’s cool to find ways to spread the love we’re getting from the garden and creating a menu.
You’ve used a lot of different ingredients over the years there. What stands out?
We’ve done a mustard and beets cocktail. We’ve done a fish-sauce Manhattan— putting that little bit in there to give it that funky twang.
Broken Shaker was groundbreaking in the Miami cocktail scene. What’s your role with the menu there now?
It went from me coming up with it to me becoming more of an editor. I’ll have a drink or two on each menu, and the teams at the respective bars will make up the menu with guidance from me. It’s the way Gabe [Orta] and Elad [Zvi] did it with me in the beginning. It’s a pretty organic thing.
You’re also opening the Anderson on 79th. What can people expect?
Anderson is in the old Magnum space, which obviously has a lot of history. Now that Tobacco Road is being torn down, it’s actually the longest-running liquor license in Miami. It’s going to be a really cool lounge. We wanted to keep that dark, cozy lounge vibe, but throw in a bit of a party element on the weekend. There’s a tiny building in the parking lot we’re calling The Shack that’s going to have a Jamaican theme, a beach-bar vibe. We’re bringing sand in there. The Broken Shaker, 2727 Indian Creek Dr., Miami Beach, 305-531-2727
How did The Rum Line come about?
There were no good rum bars in Miami [so we made] a place where you can go and get a good sipping rum, sit outside, and smoke a cigar underneath the palm trees while you feel the ocean breeze.
What can people expect?
The “Old School” menu is Jungle Bird; Swizzle, a hand-shaken piña colada; and Dark & Stormy, where we make our own ginger beer. We have the “New School,” which is our modern take on cocktails, including a drink with kale, cachaça, cucumber juice, and jalapeño.
Some of your rum packs a punch.
The Zombie 305 has a limit of two per guest because it’s a blend of three different rums, tequila, homemade grenadine, absinthe, lime, and a punch liqueur. It’s very delicious. We also have our Nuclear Daiquiri, which is also limited to two per guest.
What ingredients are you using?
Miami is very big on juicing right now, so I always like to use fresh juices when I make a cocktail. Not just fresh lime and lemon, which is a given, but fresh pineapple or fresh carrot juice, kale, cucumber.
Was there a time when you surprised yourself?
There’s a drink called Port of Call. I really wanted to use almond milk. It’s light and healthy and has a lot of flavor. It took me four weeks to make it, changing every day. Someone said try adding cinnamon syrup, and it was a home run. That became one of our best-selling cocktails when we first opened. 1601 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-695-0110
photography by gary james