From the author of “Drink Lightly,” a low-alcohol cocktail with fresh strawberry.
The Surf Club’s iconic Champagne Bar shakes it up with a cocktail menu as wild as the hotel’s history.
LOCATED ON AN idyllic stretch of sand between Miami Beach and Bal Harbour, the Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club has a distinguished history and a vault of secrets.
When it opened on New Year’s Eve 1930, amid Prohibition, the oceanfront property offered a bacchanalian sanctuary fueled by spirits regularly ferried in from Bimini and Cuba. Next came parties with mythical guests — think, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, and Tennessee Williams — and outsized attractions: Themes included King Arthur’s Court, and a live elephant was once the ballroom’s pièce de résistance.
This illustrious past both drew star bartender Ashish Sharma to the Four Seasons property as beverage director and prompted him to rethink the concept behind its Champagne Bar. “While I love Champagne, there was something about it that was a bit rigid,” he explains. To guide the bar’s evolution, Sharma, lead bartender Larry Olea, and their team compiled an archive of Miami’s past. This ultimately informed a new menu titled “Miami Timeline,” featuring 13 cheeky cocktails inspired by iconic people and moments from 1860 to the present day.
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The Clevelander, a sweet concoction with Brugal 1888 rum, Armagnac, cherry bark, and orange bitters, is a tribute to Julia Tuttle, a businesswoman known as the “Mother of Miami,” who lobbied for a railroad to connect the city to the greater United States. Meanwhile, the Buena Vista pays homage to one of the area’s first neighborhoods with mezcal, lychee, grapefruit rosemary tonic, and an oyster leaf garnish, which at first sip tastes like a splash of seawater.
But the team’s creations don’t just look to the past for inspiration. Take the Wynwood Walls, a cocktail the color of sunset, made with vodka, Cocchi Americano, citrus syrup, and roasted pineapple soda. Abbreviated to WWW on the menu, it winks at both Miami’s recent rise as a digital hub for tech entrepreneurs and at the birth of the Wynwood Arts District, with its vibrant graffiti murals. There are also nods to the local climate in concoctions such as the Surf Club Sling, a fusion of a Singapore sling and a Hurricane, made with passion fruit, gin, maraschino, and house-made toasted coconut grenadine, and served with an aroma dome that resembles a brewing storm before it evaporates.
Sharma plans to swap out a few cocktails every four months. And his team is so confident they can continue to capture the zeitgeist that they’ve named their take on a tequila martini — a perfectly smoky-sweet combination of tequila, maraschino liqueur, and white chocolate vermouth — the Next Big Thing. “You’ll see,” says Tatiana Odishoo, a bartender at the Champagne Bar, while pouring the finishing touches into a Champagne glass. “This is the next big thing.”
Patricia Garcia is a Venezuelan writer living in Miami. She’s currently at work on a short story collection.
Yoshihiro Makino, born and raised in Tokyo, is an architecture and interior photographer based in Los Angeles. Makino is drawn to cultural co-influences in design, seen between Japan and other countries. His work takes him around the world, capturing spaces and portraits for a vast array of editorial, private, and commercial clients.
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