As New Yorkers flocked to Florida over the last year—many with one-way tickets—a number of brand name restaurants made the trip south as well.
In late 2020, Marcus Samuelsson opened another branch of his hit Harlem restaurant Red Rooster in the Overtown neighborhood. Then came the new outposts of Major Food Group’s Carbone, Altamarea Group’s Osteria Morini, and the announcement that Keith McNally and Stephen Starr are bringing the Meatpacking District icon Pastis to the city.
New York’s influence on Miami’s drinking scene was inevitable, says Sondre Kasin, head bartender for Cote Korean Steakhouse, one of the more recent transplants that opened in Miami’s Design District earlier this year. “Where Miami used to be focused on tropical flavors and juice-driven cocktails,” he says, there is a noticeable shift towards menus with more elevated classics prepared with high-end ingredients.
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Like the Flatiron original, opened by Simon Kim in June 2017, Cote Miami has been a hit from day one, thanks in no small part to its high-achieving beverage program, which includes a 1,200 bottle wine list.
Kasin is a native of Norway who worked in Oslo before heading to New York in 2018. To translate the Cote bar experience—which includes the restaurant’s subterranean cocktail den Undercote—he spent months investigating the city’s bar culture in order to create a model that would meld a New York spirit with a Miami sensibility.
Bringing New York Steakhouse Glamour
Kasin’s menu balances classics like the Cote Fashioned, the steakhouse’s take on an Old Fashioned (Four Roses bourbon, oleo saccharum, Angostura bitters), with original creations designed to connect with the local community.
The Proper Martini (whether made with Absolut Elyx vodka, Plymouth gin, or both) is sought out by Miami diners as a symbol of old-fashioned New York steakhouse style. “We have a lot of pride in showcasing those as a good way to start the night,” points out Kasin.
The Unlikely Best-Seller
When Kasin created The Heat, made with Arette tequila, Chinola passion fruit liqueur (the brand’s founders are based in Miami), lime juice, coffee, and spicy agave syrup, he was unsure how guests would respond. “It’s a blend of so many layers and flavors; in the beginning I thought it might even be too much,” he says. “But it became a bestseller.”
Swapping in Brighter Flavors
In New York, Cote guests tend to order cocktails with deep, concentrated flavors, go-tos like the Manhattan, observes Kasin. “The first thing we noticed in Miami is that tequila is the number one selling spirit,” he says. “People here love its crisp, fresh profile,” so his menu shifted to include more agave-based drinks.
Other Miami-centric newcomers include the Nordic Piña Colada (Bacardi 8 rum, Linie Aquavit, pineapple coconut water, lime, Angostura bitters) and the Cote Green Bull (Belvedere vodka, Fallen Pony, Midori, Korean ginseng, taurine, guarana, Champagne).
New York’s Lasting Mark
Kasin is back at his New York home base full time, but still travels to Miami to lend support to the talented Cote bar staff. “When working with an experienced team, as we did in Miami, it was about getting everyone on the same page,” Kasin points out, noting how staff training focused on service and attention to details. While New York has lost bartending talent to other regions, cities like Miami will continue to benefit, he believes: “I think it’s a positive that there has been a movement in people… New York has been the center of hospitality and bartending for so long and it’s great to see the New York influence on the bar and restaurant scenes in other places.”
Alia Akkam is a writer who covers food, drink, travel, and design. She is the author of Behind the Bar: 50 Cocktails from the World’s Most Iconic Hotels (Hardie Grant) and her work has appeared in Architecturaldigest.com, Dwell.com, Penta, Vogue.com, BBC, Playboy, and Taste, among others, and she is a former editor at Edible Queens, Hospitality Design, and Beverage Media. A native New Yorker, Alia now calls Budapest home. Follow Alia @behdria.