Miami is home to no shortage of breweries, but if truly local spirits are what you seek, set your sights on Tropical Distillers, a ultra-local craft distillery from former NFL centers (and twins) Mike and Maurkice Pouncey and luxury real estate expert Kim Rodstein.
Decked out in vibrant pink and aqua, the multi-use space in Allapattah takes advantage of a fully automated process to distill its selection of small-batch craft liqueurs highlighting the best of Miami’s local terroir. The flagship is its J.F. Haden’s brand mango liqueur, inspired by the eponymous mangoes cultivated here since the early 20th century, when retired U.S. army officer Captain John J. Haden planted the four dozen Mulgoba mango seedlings he’d brought from Palm Beach to his Coconut Grove abode. The resulting liqueur is a made-in-Florida exclusive, crafted from 100% locally-grown mangoes for a 40-proof tipple with a vibrant orange color and sweet, fruity flavor.
“We are the only craft mango liqueur in the world,” says Buzzy Sklar, Miami hospitality veteran and CEO of Tropical Distillers and J.F. Haden’s Liqueur (and husband to Rodstein). “I have really been enjoying it mixed on a one-to-one ratio with a great mezcal.”
Joining the mango liqueur are three other creations under the J.F. Haden’s brand. The citrus liqueur is made with a blend of locally grown oranges, lemons and limes — a natural addition to the lineup from the erstwhile number-one citrus producer in the nation. Newcomer lychee, meanwhile, is made with floral lychee fruit that’s been grown in South Florida since the 18th century.
“It is certainly painstaking to source all of our products,” says Sklar. “To make things easier, we’ve limited ourselves to Florida-centric flavors for the time being.”
And that doesn’t just mean Florida-grown fruit. A cold-proofed espresso liqueur made with fresh arabica beans roasted by Miami’s Per’La is inspired by the flavors of a local favorite: the Cuban-style colada. It’s the base for head mixologist Amanda Perez’s espresso martini, one of several cocktails served on-site at Tropical Distillers’ 30-seat cocktail bar and on the 1,500-square-foot outdoor deck. (Don’t worry, there’s a whole array of food trucks to ensure you don’t get too tipsy on these dangerously quaffable creations.)
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And if you want to learn even more about the brand and its offerings, $25 guided tours are offered at 1, 3, and 5 p.m. , Thursday through Sunday, complete with a tasting of the craft liqueurs.
Sklar himself is a New York native-turned-Miamian, following that frequently trod road to the fine weather of the Sunshine State.
“In all my time living in Miami,” he says, “I’ve always been fortunate to live within a block of the beach.”
When he’s not basking in the sunshine — or sipping one of Perez’s cocktails — here are Sklar’s choice spots to drink and dine.
Favorite Place for Drinks with a View
Favorite Place for Date-Night Cocktails
“I’m kind of biased, but I really love the espresso martinis at Joe’s Stone Crab. The biggest connection with Joe’s is familial for me. I’ve been going there since I was a little boy with my grandparents and I now take my kids! It’s become a tradition in my family.”
Favorite Place to Eat in Miami
“Makoto in the Bal Harbour Shops is my favorite. Excellent food and service. I’ve tried everything on the menu, so what I order is determined by my mood. However, the spicy tuna crispy rice is always a good choice.”
Favorite Spot for Great Coffee
“I’m a huge Pura Vida guy.”
Favorite Place for Great Wine
“Honestly, there’s nothing quite like sitting on the couch, watching Netflix and having a great bottle of wine with my wife, Kim.”
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