When people think of South Beach, they think of overly tanned tourists, neon lights and the occasional cheesy DJ playing at a random club. In the middle of all of this flamboyance lays Clandestino, Miami’s first and only Mezcaleria, a dedicated mezcal bar focused on one of the oldest & finest Mexican spirits: agave based mezcal.
The bar’s name means secret, hidden, sometimes illegal, a Mexican speakeasy of sorts; and staying true to its roots, this hidden gem on Washington Avenue has become the laid back local’s bar that doubles as a music venue and art gallery. Since it’s opening, Clandestino has always been a work in progress. The owners, from Mexican origin Emanuel “Manu” González and David "El Cuervo" Alvarez, believe that change and experimenting with new ideas has allowed for Clandestino to evolve from a modest craft beer bar to becoming a Mezcaleria (mezcal bar). It now serves over 18 original mezcal craft cocktails recipes, named after Mexican pop icons like lucha libre wrestlers El Santo and famous artists like Frida.
“Our cocktail list is devoted to all things agave, showcasing the rare finds from our travels throughout southern Mexico,” said Emanuel González, co-owner of Clandestino. “We personally curate each and every mezcal that we serve and we’re proud to say that we’re the only true Mezcaleria in Miami and actually all of Florida. Other places carry a few mezcal options but don’t offer variety, or are not focused on providing an authentic Mexican experience.”
Mezcal is handcrafted, often from old family recipes, and complex in taste. It can be produced in several states of Mexico, such as Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Zacatecas. Unlike tequila, mezcal can be produced from over 30 different varieties of agave, and its trademark smoky flavor is captured by fire-roasting the agave hearts in pits dug into the ground before distillation. The craftsmanship of this artisanal production creates colorful flavors ranging from floral and fruity to hints of red pepper, coffee and chilies.
“Clandestino allows you to forget you're in South Beach, transporting you to a different place; a bizarre mix of a Mexico City cantina & Mezcaleria in Oaxaca,” said David “El Cuervo” Alvarez, coowner of Clandestino. “Our basic criteria to decide which mezcals make it to Clandestino’s shelves is that it has to be hand-made and produced in limited small batches.
From all the spirits in the world, mezcal is one of the few that can’t really be produced massively (without sacrificing flavor and quality) due to its complexity and the time needed for the agave plants to grow, in some cases it could even take 35 years.”
Recently Clandestino made some updates to their place, including a new back bar designed and built by Manu - inspired by traditional small town Mezcalerias in Oaxaca, Mexico - as well as a 45 x 12ft mural painted by Mexican graffiti artist Smithe. He has not only worked with artists like Pharrel, but has also painted in places like Mexico City, Barcelona, Berlin, NY and has now left his very first mark in Miami.
With their amazing Mezcal Margaritas and drink names like “Cabroni” and “The Bandido”, Clandestino guarantees mezcal flavors for every taste bud. Like the Mexican saying goes: “Para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también”. This means “For everything bad, mezcal, and for everything good, the same.”
Bar hours: Sunday-Wednesday 8 p.m. – 4 a.m. & Thursday-Saturday 8 p.m. – 4 a.m. Address: 758 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139