I vividly remember my first Miami Vice. The time was high summer, the place was Martell's Tiki Bar, on the boardwalk in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. I had recently turned 21 and was just starting to explore the world of cocktails. The setting called for a frozen drink, but I couldn't decide between the piña colada and the strawberry daiquiri. Seeing me stuck at a crossroads, the waiter recommended, "Why not have both?" Puzzled, I told him I didn't want to order two drinks. He pointed me to the Miami Vice, a drink combining the piña colada and the strawberry daiquiri and topped with dark rum. I gave it a try. Bands of white and red swirled around each other in the icy cup, making the palms of my hands burn with cold. The first slurp hit me instantly with sweet notes of pineapple, coconut, and strawberry. Strong kicks of spice from the rum cut through the fruitiness, and the chill mellowed everything out. From that moment on, the Miami Vice has been my beach companion.
I'm not alone in my fondness for the drink. Thought to have been invented in Miami (and to have gotten its name from the hit '80s TV show), the Miami Vice has been a fixture at beachside bars for decades. More recently, bartenders across the country (even some far from the beach) have embraced the Miami Vice, putting their own special twists on the drink, from a caramelized pineapple Piña Colada fuses with a Strawberry Daiquiri made with sake at Mercy Me in Washington, D.C, to the "Miami Nice," a frothy swirl of guava and coconut cream served at the Beehive in San Francisco.
Frozen drink expert Thomas Houston, the bar manager at Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar in New Orleans, is one such fan. "Being in the bar business, there is a certain snubbing of frozen drinks, especially the piña colada and the strawberry daiquiri, but the Miami Vice is one of my favorites," Houston says. "It hits on so many different levels in terms of complexity, and it's refreshing and delicious, too."
Houston's version of the Miami Vice uses Don Q Piña rum to reinforce the pineapple flavor in the creamy piña colada. He soaks frozen strawberries in Regans' bitters, which adds an orange flavor that accentuates the balancing acidity of the strawberry daiquiri. One ingredient you won't find in Houston's frozen cocktails? Ice.
"Even though most people consider it a go-to for most frozen drinks, ice is actually detrimental for cocktails. All it really does is water down the ingredients," Houston says. Instead, he leans on frozen strawberries and frozen canned crushed pineapple for "that nice, smooth, blended frozen consistency."
Thanks to Houston, I'll now be making this amazing drink at home. But when the beach calls this summer, you'll still find me in Point Pleasant, looking out at the open ocean, gripping a Miami Vice in my hand. — Lauren Musni
Cream of coconut is thick, syrupy sweetened coconut cream and may not be substituted with coconut cream.