Drink up! Miami has the best bar team in the country.
The team at Café La Trova on Calle Ocho in Little Havana has just won the Best American Bar Team Award at the 14th annual 2020 Spirited Awards, presented by the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation.
Café La Trova, which opened in 2019, was also nominated in the Best High Volume Cocktail Bar category but lost out to San Francisco’s AVB.
Created by chef Michelle Bernstein, David Martinez and Master Cantinero Julio Cabrera, the restaurant and nightlife spot features a seven-person bar team that follows the traditional Cuban cantinero style.
Cabrera, who says his team has more than 200 years of collective cantinero experience, says he’s thrilled to win the award, especially since it comes at a time when the bar has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It feels amazing,” he says, adding that it’s extra-sweet to celebrate the honor in Little Havana.
“I’m happy to have this accomplishment on Calle Ocho. We wanted to bring something to our community. When we started, everything was happening in South Beach and Wynwood. There were only a few places to open before us. To have this in the middle of a Cuban community? I am happy for that. It’s my roots.”
What sets his cantineros apart?
“We make great cocktails, but that’s not the most important part of our job,” Cabrera says. “Lots of bars make great cocktails. We take care of people, but we’re also part of the show. We spend the whole night making drinks and dancing and playing instruments behind the bar. . . . We’re not just coming to work. It’s more than a job for us. We enjoy our night. It’s our passion.”
Café La Trova has not yet reopened, but Cabrera says the owners are considering a timetable once they get the OK from Miami-Dade County, where bars remain closed.
“We’ll open when we feel comfortable for the community and comfortable for us,” he says.