With an abundance of tropical fruit, highly rated distilleries, and skilled bartenders, South Florida's drinks scene is one to watch.

By Tom Austin
September 25, 2015
Credit: Courtesy of Libertine

South Florida is a subtropical landscape brimming with exotic fruits. No surprise, then, that as the focus on mixology has exploded nationwide, top bartenders naturally have turned to the state’s local fruits, herbs, and other nouveau ingredients when crafting a wave of forward-thinking artisanal cocktails that now characterize Florida’s bar scene.

Rum, of course, is also a big part of Miami’s cocktail universe: there’s the annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in April, and such distillers as Miami Club Rum, South Florida Distillers, and Key West Legal Rum. Last year, the World Tiki team championship was won by the Bacardi U.S. Tiki Team, which included Trevor Alberts of Matador at the Edition. This fusion of native rum, local ingredients, and skilled bartenders is making for an exciting wave of offerings hitting South Florida’s best bars and eateries.

The new Beaker & Gray, opening in October, will offer Inside Outside In, made with rum aged in a hollowed-out pineapple with assorted spices. Quality Meats Miami Beach does a Pina Clara made with light rum, clarified pineapple, and coconut. And the menu at Libertine includes a Firewater cocktail of Bacardi Superior Rum, grenadine, and freshly squeezed orange juice.

The cocktail menus at the new Marion restaurant and the adjacent supper club El Tucan are being engineered by Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, of Bar Lab, known for the Broken Shaker at the Freehand Hotel. El Tucan and Marion are under the same ownership, with El Tucan—opening on October 1—featuring a resident Latin orchestra and drinks like La Vieja Salsera, which incorporates fresh guava, Florida citrus, sugarcane, Bacardi Superior Rum, and Angostura Bitters.

In Palm Beach, Meat Market Palm Beach serves a L’Orange Fumee made with Sombra Mezcal, blood orange juice, lemon juice, Campari, ancho reyes, and agave nectar. Meanwhile, Fort Lauderdale’s O2K Lounge at the Pelican Grand Beach Resort might be the healthiest way to wrap up a South Florida cocktail run: O2K is known for their restorative Anti-Oxidant Mojito—a blend of Sammy’s Beach Rum, pomegranate juice, and fresh berries.

Tom Austin is based in Miami and covers the Florida beat for Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter at @TomAustin__.