Here we are, amongst the headiness of it all, at The Palace — more church-like institution than gender-bending beach bar at 1200 Ocean Drive. Said girls and guys are pouring sugary $5 cocktails down their necks like they’re going out of fashion, and the drag’s in full swing with big-haired Fantasia belting out JLo. It’s more crass than class here, but it’s as much of Miami’s fabric as Art Deco and Don Johnson.
Three rounds in, my friends and I walk the 30 seconds back to the hotel to power-shower our sins away. We’re staying at Lords South Beach, a temple to retro kitsch at 1120 Collins Avenue: there’s a plastic polar bear in the lobby pawing a beach ball suggestively, a wall of shimmering gold tiles in the bar that Donna Summer would be proud of, and an oversized print of Cleopatra above our beds.
Hair slicked and bodies buffed, we head for a coveted table at Catch in The James, where we sit against bare brick walls, among botox’d beauties and steroid-pumped studs. The seafood that’s served at lighting speed from the kitchen is stunning, too, thanks to ‘sleb chef Hung Huynh, and the ‘Pho Little Rich Boys’ really hit the spot.
But we’re here more for the drinks than the dinner and a couple of Dirty Bastards (whiskey, ginger beer and lime) send us spinning into a frenzied bar crawl that starts ankle-deep in chlorine at The Delano at 1685 Collins Avenue. Thankfully, we’re not at the bottom just yet, merely sat at a table in the shallow end. Mango Martini in-hand, the scene that slinks past means business: models breaking balls at the bar; moguls mixing business with pleasure in the cabanas; and minders of the rich and powerful waiting discretely for their clients in the shadows of looming palms. Suddenly, there’s a scuffle; a slip of a thing throws her flute of Billecart-Salmon over her smooth-dude date, storming up the steps with nothing but the flash of a red–sole shoe for a goodbye. He doesn’t seem fussed — they’re a dime a dozen round this pool.
We can only do Delano drama for so long, though, and we’re off into the night again and headed to 4441 Collins Avenue for the legendary Bleau Bar at Fontainebleau. You know, the hotel where Bond and Goldfinger played a game of gin rummy and Jill Masterson became a real-life Oscar statue. Preferring cocktails to cards, garnish to gold, we opt for a Window Table and a pricy Dragon Fly — a potent, blueberry-flavoured party drink that really gets us in the mood. The vibe here is more self-consciously fashionable than the days Frank Sinatra used to prop up its bar, but it’s forever fun and it’s not long before we’ve moved through to the outdoor Glow Bar for more poolside people-perving. It’s all tropics-goes-trendy glam, and we opt for holiday-style Strawberry Daiquiris before doing an obligatory lap.
Before long we’re falling into a cab for the short drive to our next stop: Story, the newest superclub on the block at 136 Collins Avenue. Face-control is tight at the door, but we make the grade and slip inside: 27,000-square-feet of party playground awaits, and we waste no time in flashing some cash for a VIP table to call our own. Bottle service is still very much the thing here, despite the eye-wateringly expensive price-tags, and it’s not long before our spirits have caught the eye of a couple of bright young things. We lower the velvet rope, and they step inside to join us for whispered sweet nothings between sultry sips. The bass kicks in as the drinks do the same.
Finally, as sunrise bathes the streets in sepia, we hit up 11th Street Diner, round the corner at 1065 Washington Avenue, and collapse into a booth; the waitress doesn’t look fazed – she’s seen it all before – as we struggle to string a sentence together and order. Mine’s the corned beef hash with two eggs washed down with a Chocolate Fudge shake. I’d like it hard with a splash of liquor, but I refrain from asking. It’s time for bed.
Words by Nicky Clarke
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