Cocktail Tips From Miami Bartender Ben Potts

Check out the on-trend cocktails the locals are drinking and tips on how to make them.

Fresh ingredients, house-made syrups and mixes, innovative recipes—craft cocktails have taken over bars throughout the country. Miami, once known for the classic mojito and tropical drinks, has evolved into a more sophisticated scene, thanks to a new crop of bartenders and mixologists shaking things up. 

We checked in with Ben Potts, acclaimed bar manager and co-owner of the hip Beaker & Gray, for his insight into what's new in Miami's cocktail scene. 

A native Miamian, Potts began working in bars in 2009 when he left the world of investment banking after a change of heart. Since then, he's been mastering the art of crafting the perfect cocktail at notable hotspots including Purdy Lounge, Blackbird Ordinary, Broken Shaker and now at Wynwood's Beaker & Gray. 

Beaker & Gray
Beaker & Gray (©Cortney Cates)

How does Miami’s cocktail scene compare to others around the country?

Miami is in a unique position. Since we have access to the best ingredients in the country, plenty of people [are] willing to shell out a decent amount of money for a great drink and the best weather possible—most of the time. This combination makes Miami a pretty attractive place to be, so we acquire a lot of great talent from around the world. As the scene grows, it becomes even more alluring.

What are the classic cocktails found in the Miami?

The mojito might be the most obvious, but we’re obviously also very close to the birthplace of the mojito—Cuba. Beyond that, anything refreshing is going to be ordered quite a bit, so Moscow Mules and shaken vodka martinis are really common as well.

classic mojito
white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water and mint. (Courtesy Ball & Chain)

What’s on trend in the scene?

The trendiest is definitely the Mule, but since they are so ubiquitous, certain bars are using different ingredients or techniques to stand out.

How do you make a Mule?

A classic Mule is vodka and ginger beer, maybe a squeeze of lime. At Beaker & Gray, we add lime juice, ginger syrup and aromatic bitters to make things a little more exciting and flavorful.

What is your favorite cocktail?

I’m really digging the Boulevardier for some reason. Bittersweet with a hint of barrel age from the whiskey makes it a pretty regular go-to.

Boulevardier, The Spotted Owl, Tremont (©edsel_/Flickr, Creative Commons)

How do you make a Boulevardier?

My Boulevardiers are a little whiskey-heavy: 1.5 ounces of whiskey, usually bourbon, 1 ounce of Campari and 1 ounce of sweet vermouth. I stir it in a beaker until properly diluted and strain over a big ice cube and garnish with an orange peel.

What are a few local bars that you recommend to your customers?

If I’m up north, I go to The Anderson. If I’m on the beach, I make it over to Broken Shaker, 27, Sweet Liberty or Repour. And if I want a party with my drink, I head over to Bodega, Ricky’s, Radio Bar or Purdy Lounge. On the mainland and a little south, I go to Blackbird Ordinary.

Is there a concoction you’ve found that’s a cure-all for jet lag?

Yes. A liter of water, a colada (Cuban coffee), a two-mile run and a daiquiri after the run to celebrate!