The Place: Walk into Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company and one feels at home, as if the bar had been in the neighborhood forever. It is warm and welcoming at 20th Street and Liberty Avenue near Collins Park. Its industrial look has exposed air ducts contrasted with retro fruity and floral wallpaper, red banquettes and and a lit-up bar where there is a chef’s table so you can watch bartenders make you a drink and eat dinner. It’s open until 5 a.m., when workers from the nearby hotels and night owls gather.
The History: The bar is co-owned by John Lermayer, Dan Binkiewicz from Blackbird Ordinary and David Martinez and wife Michelle Bernstein. Bartender Lermayer, from Queens, was studying law at Long Island University when he started bartending and realized that was his calling. He came to Miami Beach 15 years ago and worked at the Shore Club and the Delano. After traveling the globe as a bar consultant he met up with old friend Martinez for advice on the new venture and met chef Halid Quiroz (mentored by Bernstein). It all fell into place. The chef is from Tlaxcala Tlax in East Central Mexico in the shadow of a volcano and grew up helping his grandmother and mother cook. He worked in restaurants in San Francisco and New York and came to South Florida last year.
The Food: The food here is eccentric, glorified bar food with a few Mexican elements. Order a craft cocktail with some beet pickled deviled eggs, crab toast or ahi tuna poke with seaweed salad, avocado and sesame oil. Try the Collins Park Sour with gin, crème de peche, lemon, orange blossom water, matcha (green tea) topped with egg white, or the Yankee Julep with Wild Turkey rye and mint. Try the crunchy fried green tomatoes stacked with Boursin cheese; the Cuban torta (sandwich) with braised pork belly with Serrano ham, Swiss, pickles and charred jalapeno aioli; or elote (grilled corn on the cob) with lime crema, cotija cheese and chamoy, a spicy, fruity, tart Mexican dip. There’s also a brisket sandwich with horseradish on toasted challah and an organic half-chicken roasted with preserved lemon and spices plated with Israeli couscous. Dessert here is Irish coffee or bourbon bread pudding (or both) where the motto is Pursue Happiness.
You Didn’t Know This: Michelle Bernstein concocted the nachos made with white tortilla chips layered with roasted nubs of cauliflower, cheddar, Velveeta and Monterey pepper jack cheeses, cilantro, pickled jalapeno and avocado crema sprinkled with slivers of radish and pomegranate seeds. At happy hour, East Coast oysters are paired with drinks such as Austrian Stiegl-radler beer made by brewing Stiegl-goldbrau and grapefruit juice.
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Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.
If You Go
Place: Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company
Address: 237-B 20th Street, Miami Beach (at Liberty Avenue)
Hours: 4 p.m.-5 a.m. daily
Prices: Cocktails $12, bar snacks $6-$15, entrees $19-$29, dessert $7
FYI: Daily happy hour 4-6 p.m. with 75-cent oysters and $5 cocktails