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Cause of death released for bar owner who sparked Miami’s mixology movement

The late John Lermayer, owner of Sweet Liberty bar in Miami Beach, won a posthumous lifetime achievement award from the Tales of the Cocktails Spirited Awards.
The late John Lermayer, owner of Sweet Liberty bar in Miami Beach, won a posthumous lifetime achievement award from the Tales of the Cocktails Spirited Awards.

John Lermayer, an award-winning bar owner who helped found the mixology movement in Miami, died of a ruptured brain aneurysm, the county medical examiner has ruled.

Lermayer missed work and was found dead in his apartment on June 6 by a concerned friend who stopped in to check on him. He was 45. The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s office investigated his death as standard practice and determined late last week he died of natural causes, Darren J. Caprara, the department’s director of operations, wrote the Miami Herald in an email.

No one did more to elevate Miami’s drinks menus than Lermayer. New York born, he brought Miami the trend of using culinary flavors to develop drinks that stood up to gourmet dishes. Before that, Miami was a city of rum and Cokes and cosmopolitans.

He changed that in more than a decade at high-profile bars in Miami, finally opening his own, Sweet Liberty, with chefs and co-owners Michelle Bernstein, a James Beard award winner, and her husband, David Martinez.

“His palate was like nothing I’d ever seen,” Martinez said.

Last month, Lermayer won a posthumous lifetime achievement award at the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards in New Orleans, considered the most prestigious bar and cocktail awards in the world. The awards honored him with a video tribute and a second line tribute with a six-man brass band that honked out bittersweet music as it marched through the streets of the French Quarter.

Lermayer was survived by his 15-year-old son, Radek. Martinez and his partners set up a GoFundMe page for his care and eduction.

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