With rum-based cocktails and exotic bites, Miami’s latest tiki bar transports you to a paradise in the Pacific

Esotico's Nu Mai Tai packs the same strong punch as the original version created at Trader Vic's in 1944.

Last June when I traveled to Singapore, I noticed an alley way next to my hotel with a plain beige metal door and a sign to its left that read “Jr”. My curiosity piqued, I walked inside the lobby and inquired about it to the concierge, who laughed and told me to go back to the alley, open the door and let myself be surprised.

So I did.

Inside I found Junior The Pocket Bar, a dimly lit bar that changes cocktail themes and décor every six months. That evening, I had stumbled into their “Pacifica” season and the most amazing tiki-style concoction by mixologist Peter Chua and Mark Ng.

After my second cocktail, I started daydreaming about having something like it in Miami. Perhaps it was that the Universe was particularly attentive that night, but two months later, we have our own tiki paradise, Esotico.

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James Woodley. Mixologist and Graspa Group partner Daniele Dalla Pola fires things up opening night at Esotico.

The tropical-themed tiki bar located in the ground floor of Canvas condominiums in the Arts District, serves signature craft cocktails by world recognized “tiki maestro” and Graspa Group partner, Daniele Dalla Pola. Italian native Pola, owner of NU Lounge Bar in Bologna and Alamea Exotic Infusions, elevates the popular genre of tiki cocktails by adding and experimenting with the natural flavors of coconut, pimento, peach brandy, coffee and spice. The experience of enjoying said cocktails was evidently also enhanced, as the locals sipping away around me were certainly having fun.

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Fruity and balanced, Dan's Special blends two different rums with a few secret ingredients for an exotic, sweet flavor.

So, what to order? Take your pick.

Nu Mai Tai ($15 or $23 if you keep the souvenir glass) DPP created a twist on the quintessential Mai Tai cocktail invented by Trader Vic in 1944. DDP’s version is exquisitely balanced, with additional ingredients Daniele can’t divulge but we can guess they originate in Italy.

The Missionary Downfall ($17) This refreshing, creamy (yet without cream), smooth cocktail includes Bacardi Carta Blanca Rum and Alamea Peach Brandy along with some fresh pineapple juice, real blue agave nectar and plenty of fresh mint—without a doubt a fan favorite.

Dan’s Special ($14) It’s a no fuss, well-balanced exotic double rum drink, infused with Bacardi Cuatro and Yellow Snake Jamaican rum with blue agave nectar, a special natural passion fruit juice and other secret touches.

The Zombie ($18 or $26 if you keep the souvenir glass) is prepared with the original 1930 recipe by Don the Beachcomber, including Don’s Mix #2 (grapefruit and cinnamon syrup), Daniele’s Falernum, a syrup liqueur containing ginger, lime, almond and fragrant spices, as well as fresh lime juice, Pernod, Wray & Nephew Overproof, Bacardi Carta Oro and Yellow Snake Jamaican Rums. This not-for-lightweights beverage is topped with Angostura bitters, for a smashingly powerful and surprisingly smooth finish.

Club Bali ($15) Made with hand harvest, organically grown cane sugar from Java and Yaguara Cachaça from Brazil, this cocktail is mixed with Banks 5 Island Rum, fresh pineapple, agave nectar and passion fruit purée, topped with pineapple and mint leaves.

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James Woodley. Esotico's Missionary Downfall is worth the risk.

More on the menu

A proper, sometimes strong tiki cocktail often needs a good food pairing. Luckily, Esotico’s bar menu delivers tasty options that will compliment these massively hearty drinks.

The show-stopping Shaved Ice Leche de Dragon; a ceviche replete with “fruit de mer” like corvina, tuna, octopus and shrimp, marinated in a lime-coconut, mint, and cilantro leche de tigre with cherry tomatoes, and green onions. The final theatrical touch is the Pisco watermelon gazpacho shaved on top.

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James Woodley. Fact: cocktails taste better with flavorful food options. Try Esotico's Ice Leche de Dragon ceviche, which artfully mixes seafood, Leche de Tigre and shaved ice, among other ingredients.

The Octopus Hot Dog, which as odd as it sounds, is surprisingly delicious and will make you realize that an octopus tentacle has a similar texture and bite as a traditional hot dog weiner. The dish is topped with mezcal cucumber relish, spicy sriracha mayo (with a touch of mustard) in a brioche bun. Speaking of bread, do not pass on the succulent Lobster Roll, dressed in lemon and clarified butter on, you guessed it, a brioche bun.

Get your tiki on at Esotico, located at 1600 NE 1st Ave Suite 102, Miami, FL 33132.