Our Flying Barman Marc Plumridge has just returned from a jaunt in one of his (and our) all-time favourite cities - Miami. We commandeered him right off the plane for a guide to the very best in mixology magic, blingin' bars and luxury lounging. Here's his take on the South Beach scene...
Sunset Lounge at Mondrian
The beautiful Marcel Wanders-designed Mondrian is always my home away from home on any trip to Miami. Set back from the main drag, with impressive views of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami, the Sunset Lounge features a host of freshly made cocktails that set a new standard on the beach when it first opened in 2008. Led by master mixologist Angelo Viera and his team, the lounge is ideal for that impromptu sundowner. Simply station yourself at the all-white bar and watch as the local fashionistas waltz on in…
On a Sunday the laidback pool party is a hoot - ask bartenders Johann, Cameron or John for a hand shaken Bacardi Daiquiri and lie back in the sun. The last time I was there I hired a jetski at the back of the hotel and whizzed along the bay past the most famous residential area known as Star Island, finishing up with a Coconut Batida. A Miami must-do!
Mondrian, 1100 West Avenue, South Beach, Miami
Living Room Bar at W South Beach
From the well-known 'W' hotel brand, this is one of the latest offerings to hit South Beach and from all the W's I've visited this has to be the very best. Within this amazing property sits the Living Room bar, a gorgeous space accurately described as a 'modern playground', with sink-into velvet armchairs, comfy sofas and retro board games and a pool deck and private terrace outside. The well-formulated cocktail list is served by a first class bar team - look out for Elad, Clark or Tommy as they mix up a storm.
TIP: This place is popular. If you venture over be sure to arrive early to avoid being delayed by the VIP rope and hotel door staff. Once inside head to the bar and ask for a classic Clover Club with Oxley Gin, or get the guys to knock you up a modern take on a Cobbler with Bacardi Rum and Martini Bianco or a drop of sherry.
W South Beach, 2201 Collins Avenue, Miami
Cecconi's at Soho Beach House
This is one of my favourite new Miami restaurants. In the ground floor courtyard of the Soho Beach House is Cecconi's, a restaurant offering up some of the very best Venetian-inspired Italian food on the beach. Renowned chef Sergio Sigala, the former head chef of the much acclaimed Casa Tua (previously my favourite restaurant in Miami) was lured here, and has created a light and elegant menu. I highly recommend the calamari and the white truffle pizza (simple pleasures I know but so good) and there's an excellent selection of wines to wash it all down with.
The restaurant and bar area has a botanical garden vibe and is adorned with plants, trees, flowers, hanging lanterns and twinkly lights. Add to this the strong, classic cocktail menu and bespoke decorative glassware and you have a venue that becomes a destination not just for dinner but the entire night.
In terms of drinks, the first one for me is always an aperitif before sitting down to eat, such as a Negroni made with Bombay Sapphire, then perhaps a Variation B or Aperol Sour to end the night.
Soho Beach House is a private members club, but Cecconi's is open to the public.
Soho Beach House Miami, 4385 Collins Avenue, Miami
The Florida Room at Delano
This is still one of the hottest places to visit on the beach, especially on a Tuesday night or over the weekend. In one corner you'll see Lenny Kravitz's see-through grand piano (he's a co-owner) and in the other a custom-designed cocktail bar serving up classic creations to the scattering of tables within. Head over early because it's a really popular place but once you're in you'll have a fantastic night. Try the 42BELOW Kiwi & Basil Sour which has been on the menu since opening or go all out Miami-style and order a bottle of Grey Goose to share with your friends at one of the private tables.
TIP: Phone ahead and book a table as with all of Miami’s most popular places it can sometimes be tricky to get in.
Delano, 1685 Collins Avenue, Miami
One of my favourite clubs on the Beach: small, intimate and I always have a great time. Organising a table beforehand will help you get through the door and once inside fireworks adorn bottles of champagne for the ultimate in party bling. With its low-slung cherry red sofas, black laquered walls and contemporary Moroccan style latticework, this is a favoured hangout of artists, photographers, filmmakers and models and one of the most stylish places to be seen after hours in Miami.
Mokai, 235 23rd Street, Miami
Liv Nightclub at the Fontainebleau
Liv is one of Miami’s biggest and most popular superclubs and attracts a lavish and jetset crowd – there are always huge queues of people at the door, vying to get a piece of the action.
Located inside the Fontainebleau - one of the largest hotels on Miami Beach - and with a capacity of well over 2,000, Liv is more akin to the kind of clubs found in Las Vegas than Miami’s other offerings.
This place will cost you a pretty penny so come prepared – private tables can often go for the price of a small house! This isn't the best place in town for cocktails so just stick to the basics but it will certainly deliver a cracking atmosphere that you won't forget in a hurry.
Fontainebleau, 4441 Collins Avenue, Miami
Other places worth a visit
Bond Street Lounge (150 20th Street) serves amazing sushi at reasonable prices and there's a great range of saki on offer too. Casa Tua (1700 James Avenue, South Beach) is a wonderfully romantic Italian restaurant on the beach. Ask for a table in the open air garden where fairy lights hang from the trees, and order a bottle of Pomerol or a nice Barolo. Hakkasan at Fontainebleau (4441 Collins Avenue) serves authentic Chinese food in a dark, sultry dining room.The Restaurant at the Setai (2001 Collins Avenue) blends Far Eastern cooking styles with classic Western dishes, and should be reserved for those special occasions when you really want a treat. If you're in a group, the private dining is a must as you'll be given the A-list treatment in your own room, tucked away from other patrons. Skybar at the Shore Club (1901 Collins Avenue) is an awesome venue with a large outdoor space where you can enjoy drinks by the pool under the night stars at one of four separate bars (I recommend the Rum Bar).
W Hotels, and Morgans Hotel Group (Mondrian, Delano, Shore Club) are both Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partners, which means you'll be able to earn miles with every stay. If you're not already a member of our award winning loyalty programme, what are you waiting for? For the best fares to Miami, log on to www.virginatlantic.com or visit Virgin Holidays for a tailor-made trip.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.