Miami Heat: 6 Sophisticated Nightlife Options in the Magic City

Shisho Negroni at Kaido in Miami, Florida

By Paul Rubio

Even if your clubbing days are long gone, that doesn’t mean Miami nightlife is off limits. With see-and-be-seen lounges, sleek rooftop bars, and even a Cuban-chic live music venue in Little Havana, Miami sizzles when the sun sets — and all ages are welcome. Here are six spots for a low-key nightcap or a full night out on the town.

Sugar, Downtown

Sugar in Miami, Florida

Photo: Swire Hotels

Downtown Miami — and all of its futuristic, skyscraping excess — marks the city’s transformation into a bustling metropolis. In the thick of these high-design buildings lies Sugar, a supremely positioned rooftop bar that offers unobstructed views of the skyline and Biscayne Bay from a whopping forty stories high.

Hand-carved Balinese hardwood furnishings and lush gardens adorn the expansive outdoor space, lending themselves to a sublime tropical jungle setting. Asian tapas and exotic cocktails, like the vodka-based Lychee Blossom martini, complement the exotic surrounds. If you’re coming late at night, inquire about accessing the Tea Room, a covert sister lounge to Sugar found through a secret door.

Bar Bevy, Miami Design District

Bar Bevy in Miami, Florida

Photo: Bar Bevy

For their freshman nightlife endeavor in the fashionable Miami Design District, hospitality mogul David Grutman and artist Pharrell Williams created an idyllic lounge for the neighborhood’s well-heeled patrons. The attire slants tropical haute couture, the music skews pop and house (but not obnoxiously so), and the décor screams eclectic Miami modern. There are plenty of comfy couches and personality-driven nooks for people watching, which tends to be the main draw here. Expect to rub elbows with Miami’s trendsetters and glitterati, plus quite a few self-proclaimed influencers.

Ball & Chain, Little Havana

Ball and Chain Bar in Miami, Florida

Photo: Ball & Chain

Want a true taste of Miami’s world-renowned Latin flavor? Reserve a table at Ball & Chain, a live music club that recalls the glamour of Old Havana and offers the perfect place to salsa the night away. The nightclub, which dates back to 1935, was resurrected in 2016, maintaining several of the building’s original design features (high-vaulted ceilings included). It also pays homage to its storied history (which runs the gamut from an underground gambling operation to a live music venue frequented by the likes of Count Basie and Chet Baker), and delivers a Miami-meets-Havana-cool ambiance with a palm-fringed outdoor lounge and floral wallpaper.

While the classic Mojito remains the most popular cocktail on the menu, consider trying some of the other Cuban-inspired cocktails, such as the Pastelito Daquiri (a sweet-yet-powerful mix of guava and rum) or the Calle Ocho Old Fashioned (blending Bacardi 8 aged rum, demerara sugar, tobacco-infused bitters, and tobacco leaf.)

Kaido, Miami Design District

Kaido bar in Miami, Florida

Photo: Juan Fernando Ayora

This petite, Japanese-inspired cocktail lounge is the brainchild of Chef Brad Kilgore and noted mixologist Nico de Soto (of Mace New York fame). The intimate, dimly lit space serves far more than sought-after sakes and Japanese whisky highballs. In fact, locals love it for its creative interpretations of ingredient-driven, pan-Asian cocktails. Try the Sakura, a smooth libation crafted with Ohishi Sherry Cask (whisky distilled from rice and aged in sherry casks), Mancino Sakura vermouth (cherry blossom vermouth), and bamboo bitters. Or try the Godzilla, a potent mix of Redemption Rye, Alameda Cream Sherry, Rice Milk Anko Matcha Syrup, and egg, dusted with black salt and honeycomb crunch. Chances are, you’ll roar with approval.

AQ Bar

AQ Bar at Acqualina Resort & Spa in Miami, Florida

Fine art and exceptional cocktails go hand-in-hand at Acqualina’s own AQ Bar, located next to the AQ by Il Mulino restaurant. Admire (and ogle) the impressive, original contemporary art collection that graces the walls, including Liz by Andy Warhol (just one of several Warhols on display) and Damien Hirst’s Mickey (a piece inspired by none other than everyone’s favorite mouse). Meanwhile, sip Champagne and elevated cocktails that complement the sublime gallery-like setting, such as the Black Cherry Old Fashioned or the Eternal Summer (which blends vodka, fresh mint, Allspice, fresh watermelon juice, homemade jalapeno syrup, and lime).

Onyx Bar, South Beach

Onyx Bar

Photo: Ken Hayden

Gianni Versace’s former oceanfront mansion, The Villa Casa Casuarina, is one of Miami’s true design marvels. And what better way to immerse yourself in the late fashion designer’s statement-making legacy than with a glass in hand at Onyx Bar, a six-seat venue (plus standing room) in what used to be his private kitchen. Sip on pricey Champagne and then peruse the opulent grounds of the Mediterranean mansion, including the 24-karat gold tile-lined “Million Mosaic Pool” and the romantic observatory.


Featured Photo: Juan Fernando Ayora