Soho House Brings an Authentic Lounge Experience to MiamiSeptember 29, 2011 By: Sean Evans
“Miami has some great nightclubs and some great bars, but what it’s really lacked for a long time is a great lounge,” says Laurent Fraticelli, general manager of Soho Beach House in Miami. “We’re changing that,” he continues, gesturing around at the lounge's opulent drawing room. The member’s-only club, with locations in New York, Los Angeles, London, Berlin and soon Mumbai and Istanbul, is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its arrival in Miami. While the 16,000-square-foot property features impeccable design and amenities, including a hotel, gym, spa, two restaurants, two pools, 3D screening room and prime beach real estate, its four distinct bars are standout features in their own rights.
On the first floor, tucked inside Cecconi’s restaurant — which is open to the public — is the first bar to feature a number of specialty cocktails that pair well with the classic Italian cuisine being served. But the décor is what makes the wooden bar pop. “It may look old,” Fraticelli says, “but everything here is brand new. We even distressed the floor tiles to make them look like they’re from the '40s,” in reference to the property’s 1940s art deco motif, executed in exacting detail.
To venture beyond the first floor bar, you need to be a member, which runs $1,800 annually for a local membership or $2,400 for global access to every property. Or just befriend a member, because they can bring at least three pals on any given visit.
For those folks, there’s the Club Bar on the second floor, which pays homage to vintage Havana. “Think Hemmingway,” Fraticelli shares. “We reclaimed some of the wood for the paneling, and the bar — despite looking vintage — was custom-crafted for us to look like it’s right off a Cuban beach, scratch marks and all.” The chairs that dot the room — half of which is outside — are snapped up from various flea markets; some even wobble. “Members appreciate that. It’s authentic. We like that they’re a little shaky,” Fraticelli explains.
Moving downstairs and toward the beach is the Tiki Bar, complete with palm trees hovering over chairs set out on the grass. “We do a lot of barbecue events here, things indicative of the local Latin culture, like a 'Pig and Punch' event, where we roast a whole pig and have some festive punch bowls,” Fraticelli says. “It’s great for social energy because there’s nothing like this on the beach.” A bar built alongside serves up libations and food. On the roof, the adult pool is flanked by another bar, which keeps guests lubricated while sunning or splashing in the water. But while the vast differences between the aesthetics and locations of the bars provide for a marked change for a guest, the cocktail menu — which remains the same throughout — means access to a universal array of creative cocktails.
The drinks program, crafted by Chris Ojeda, who helms the Soho House Hollywood bar, is nothing short of incredible. In the House Tonics section of the menu, the standout is the Picante de la Casa (Cazadores Tequila Resposado with muddled red chilies and cilantro, balanced with fresh lime and agave nectar, served on the rocks), while the Popular Fancy Drinks section boasts the Honeycomb Caiprinha (Leblon cachaca infused with honeycomb, muddled with limes and sweetened with honey) and the Brazilian Swizzle (Sagatiba Pura Cachaca, fresh pineapple juice, ginger and allspice dram, swizzled until frothy). The menu is rounded out with a Sours, Muddled & Smashed collection, which features the London Calling (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, housemade walnut-date syrup, apple cider and fresh lemon juice shaken until frothy and accented with essence of lemon grass) and the Prescription Julep (Hennessy Cognac and Rye Whiskey churned with crushed ice, sugar and mint.)
Ojeda believes when it comes to a creating a great bar or lounge, more thought should go into it than patrons may realize. “There are two things that I think make all the difference: bar design and ice,” Ojeda told Soho House’s internal magazine. “If you build a bar, your head bartender should have input on their work station. You want to build bars that bartenders would love to work in. And having quality ice in your bar goes a long way to establishing a great bar. It sets the standard for your bar that all things will be of the same quality and that every detail is looked at.”
There is no other similar lounge experience in SoBe. The high level of detail in the cocktails, design and layout means a comfortable environment for clients to enjoy. The ability to flow from various rooms and areas, each with a distinct feel and vibe, means guests can spend every night of the week there and not feel bored by their surroundings. “Everyone knows they can come to Miami for that big party night at LIV or another one of the great clubs in South Beach,” Fraticelli concludes. “On the rest of their nights in town, those same people come here and enjoy a more laid back alternative.”