Growing up in South Florida, I’ve always been fascinated by the architecture, history and culture each city has. So when Art Deco Tours reached out to me to join them on the Miami Beach Cocktail Tour, there was no need to think twice. During this 3 hour tour I had the opportunity to learn about Art Deco design, hotels and the history of Miami Beach also known as “America’s Riviera” all while sipping delicious cocktails. For those of you who don’t know, Art Deco is the predominant decorative art style of the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes and strong colors, and used most notably in household objects and in architecture. If you are familiar with Miami Beach, you have probably thought a lot of the hotels on Ocean Drive have many similarities such as color palette, building structure, symmetry etc. Well, this is what makes up Art Deco design. Christine and James, our tour guides, shared great information about Miami Beach and the hotels we stopped at as well as introduced me to some delicious cocktails. Here are some moments I captured during this afternoon Miami Beach Cocktail Tour.
Our first stop and cocktail was at Z Ocean Hotel were we enjoyed their signature drink, a refreshing Front Porch Lemonade. This drink was created by one of the hotels own bartenders and consist of fresh squeezed lemonade, Burdon, and a homemade ginger syrup. Some cool features of the Z Ocean Hotel is the outside bar full of private seating area with large game sets, a pee-a-book swimming pool and aromatic lobby. The back of the hotel looks like a cruise ship–continuing the nautical theme of South Beach Art Deco.
Next, we walked along Ocean Drive admiring some of the hotels such as The Betsy Ross. Fun Fact: The Betsy Ross is named after Betsy Ross, the woman who designed the American Flag. This hotel once served as a refugee camp site for 100,000 Marielitos Cuban refugees in the 1980 including some criminals and mentally ill. Castro stated on public television “I am flushing the toilets of Cuba onto the shores of the United States”. The movie Scarface also depicts this storyline. This understated but charming colonial hotel is the elephant in the room. It was built at the end of Art Deco row and is now one of the most luxurious hotels on Ocean Drive.
Our next viewing was of the McAlpin designed by L. Murray Dixon in 1940. L. Murray Dixon is a famous Miami Beach architect who built some of Miami Beaches more popular hotels. His work includes The Ritz Hotel, The Tudor Hotel, Tides, Beach Plaza and Kent just to name a few. L. Murray Dixon is listed a great Floridian for all his contributions to Miami Beach and Art Deco design. In the 1920s-1930s architecture was influenced my modern technology of that era such as the make of the automobile, trains, boats and ocean liners; therefore a lot of hotels resemble boats following the “Rule of 3” rule of symmetry, making windows look like the port holes on a cruise ship and even keeping the theme of the hotel like ships.The McAlpin hotels is a great example of hotels resembling boats and ocean liners with the “Rule of 3”. You can see that this hotel has 3 columns, 3 rows and 3 windows.
Our next cocktail was at Winterhaven were we enjoyed a delicious Mojito. Personally I was not expecting much because I never cared for mojitos, they were always made with too much mint for my liking, but this Mojito definitely took the #1 spot of my list. It was delicious more limey than minty, everyone agreed this cocktail was made to PERFECTION. This hotel was restored to the original time period. Almost everything with the exception of the furniture and bar at entrance is original. All fixtures, flooring, the lobby desk, double railing with glass globes, and Japanese mirrors are original. The nautical theme of this hotel played major influence in South Beach Art Deco.
Next, we took a brief detour to The Tides, the second luxury Art Deco hotel on Ocean Drive. This hotel also portrays the “Rule of 3” symmetry rule of the art deco design. The only thing missing from this hotel is the “eyebrows” above the windows and large round port holes. The lack of eyebrows shows that the architect was trying to depict a New York City skyscraper. What I liked most about this hotel was the designer, Kelly Wearstler, gave it a very antique feel. The bar walls were filled with large sea turtle shells, the furniture was very antique, also a well-kept secret is the corner bar with 22K antique gold leaf wallpaper, Persian
I meet Jeremiah famous supermodel dog soon to be featuring in Ride Along 2. Word from his owner is last year Jeremiah made $70,000.
Versace Mansion, which after 25 years of living in Miami I finally got to see… kind of exciting! Fun fact: The Versace Mansion is the most photographed building in Miami; third most photographed home in US; White House is number 1, Graceland is number 2.
Next, we stopped for a sweet surprise at The Sugar Factory who recently had their grand opening with guest Kylie Jenner. This is a really popular restaurant and bar with locations in Las Vegas, Chicago and New York. You may have heard of the Sugar Factory before, they are really popular for their fish bowl drinks made with nitrogen ice giving you that cool smoky cocktail and they sell a variety of candy and baked goods. This is definitely a one stop shop for all your sweet needs!
Our next cocktail spot was The Clevelandar Hotel were the group enjoyed a classic Pina Colada. Since I despise coconut I didn’t get to enjoy this drink but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the gorgeous roof top view overlooking the beautiful Miami Beach. The rooftop is only accessible to hotel guest, but we had VIP treatment. The Clevelander is a very popular hotel on Miami Beach. They provide great vibes with DJs, a party area, great food and are within walking distance of the beach. It’s also a sports bar and transforms into a club at night. In the 1970’s the sidewalk of The Clevelander was dotted with aluminum folding chairs. Sitting in them were elderly people where the median age was 67. The area was known as “God’s Waiting Room”. Developers soon came along and started to demolish the buildings. One person stopped the destruction–a little old widow–Barbara Capitman. So be sure to thank her when you’re sipping your Pina Colada!
Our last cocktail stop was at The Essex House Hotel, a Henry Hohauser masterpiece considered the most luxurious hotel in 1938, were we enjoyed an exclusive cocktail, a SpeakEasy. The Essex House Hotel is also sister to The Clevelander. Equally impressive, the lobby features original large octagonal portholes, terrazzo, scagliola (faux marble wall paneling), ziggurat door frames and fireplace and original painting by Earl Le Pan in 1938. After years of renovating the owners were able to get in contact with the painter and 51 years later at the age of 91, the mural was restored (1989). Le Pan added color of the Indian and alligator and a few other small touches. Earl Le Pan’s painting depicted a swamp, the original landscape of Miami Beach. The only real original elements of the lobby are the decorative columns and the floor.
Growing up in Miami, I thought I knew all there was to know about this city but I left this tour with so much knowledge and history it was almost like I was learning about this city all over again. Between the great history lessons, scenic routes and VIP treatment, this tour was perfect. Christine and James really know what they are doing and have a fun and unique way to engage tourist and even Miami natives like myself. If you are interested in learning more about the tour follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and check out there website for all your touring needs Art Deco Tours .