Arts and Craft (Cocktails)

Megan Bardoe's artful new cocktail menu at Oak Tavern

The tents are sprouting up around town. You're frantically sending out RSVP's for parties and events. Yep, by all indications, Art Basel is upon us.

Next week, when you find yourself gallery hopping in the Design District and desperate for a much-needed break from all the free wine, bubbly and stale hors d'oeuvres you'll be "enjoying," there's one barkeep you should keep in mind: Megan Bardoe, who has turned her artistic sensibilities toward a different craft, the spirited kind, at rustic local favorite Oak Tavern.

Bardoe studied art history and comparative literature in Paris and Amsterdam before landing an art consultant gig for a major cruise line, where she sailed the Caribbean on ships that would dock back in the Sunshine State. After a stint of service-industry jobs, the independent art curator—and Ally Sheedy doppelgänger—found her true calling behind the bar at Lulu's in Coconut Grove.

Her creativity and insatiable thirst for knowledge garnered her impeccable cocktails recognition in some of the most important competitions in town: She won People's Choice at Miami's GQ & Bombay Shappire's Most Imaginative Bartender of the Year qualifiers; represented the city as the Miami winner of Woodford Reserve's Manhattan Experience 2014, and took first place at the Bärenjäger Bee Original Bartender Competition.

Now that she's landed at Oak Tavern, her cocktail menu—divided into three categories—has seasonal offerings, revamped Tavern classics like the Green Mile ($14) with Plymouth, cucumber purée, Serrano pepper, cilantro and lime; and a "From the Tavern's Garden" section. We enjoyed sipping the Gone With the Wind ($11): Averna Amaro Siciliano laced with Lazzaroni amaretto, topped with tart cranberry juice to balance out any cloying aftertaste and garnished with a handpicked mint sprig—a cocktail worthy of its own exhibit. She's also pouring the Black Gold ($14)—Mitcher's rye, Bärenjäger honey liqueur, Suze and whiskey barrel-aged bitters—which won her that Bärenjäger competition and a spot in Gary Regan's upcoming volume of 101 Best New Cocktails.

And in case you're in dire need of a snack between showings next week, the new menu also includes a daily flight of Scotch n' oysters ($21), pairing a selection of three buttery West Coast bivalves, or their more pronounced and briny distant eastern cousins, with the grassy notes of the Lowlands, spicier Highlands or smokier Islays. 

Bardoe's cocktails are good reason to stop in, take stock and take a sip during the festival's madness. Baseltov!