Higher Ground, the newest addition to Bar Lab Hospitality’s portfolio of renowned cocktail and culinary concepts, opened its doors at the new Arlo Wynwood hotel just in time for Miami Art Week/Art Basel 2022. A not-so-soft opening, it turned out, as word quickly spread of Bar Lab’s new digs in the Wynwood Arts District and Higher Ground quickly became standing-room-only for art lovers, artists, gallerists, partiers and cocktail crawlers. True to its name, the indoor-outdoor jungle oasis encompasses the third floor of the recently-opened new hotel at 2217 NW Miami Court and serves as an elevated respite from the thrum of Wynwood below. With an incomparable cocktail program, lush open-air setting and vibrant cultural programming, there’s something for everyone at Higher Ground.
“We’re excited that this project brings us to the Wynwood area,” says Gabe Orta, Bar Lab co-founder/co-owner, who along with partner Elad Zvi, cemented their place on the international cocktail map with their wildly-popular Broken Shaker concept. “We have an elevated cocktail program and have the best partners in town: Chef Brad Kilgore and Arlo Hotels. The ambiance is magical and unlike any place in Wynwood. It represents what we and Bar Lab have grown into and how our tastes and approaches to mixology, operations and artistry have evolved.”
Designed by the award-winning Meyer Davis Studios and Miami firm MaD Artistic, Higher Ground is a tropical urban retreat. Accessible from an exterior, hand-painted stairwell off NW 22nd Street or via the hotel elevators, guests are transported to a verdant outdoor lounge reminiscent of a Sao Paolo rooftop. Nooks and crannies abound throughout the 3,000+ square feet space so Higher Ground lends itself to group celebrations, intimate conversation, or a small cocktail klatch. Funky, hand-painted benches surrounding a beautiful Seagrape tree, serves as the central seating area, while wicker chairs, swings and chaises are perfectly situated amongst the lush Miami flora. An outdoor bar, seating 10, is the perfect spot to watch Bar Lab’s talented bartenders in action. Inside, guests will find an additional bar, seating eight, as well as multiple eclectically-designed seating areas, a billiard room and an additional private space which serves as the green room for performers and artists.
Of course, Higher Ground’s cocktail program takes center stage and is helmed by Christine Wiseman, Bar Lab’s Global Beverage Director. A veteran in the hospitality industry for over two decades, the native Californian has earned worldwide recognition for her cocktail prowess at spots like Virtue Feed & Grain, Ink, La Descarga and Breakroom 86, before landing at Broken Shaker in Los Angeles. Since then, the talented bartender has been featured in Food & Wine, GQ and Punch as well as appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live. In 2020, she was a finalist for “American Bartender of the Year” by Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards.
“I wanted Higher Ground to evoke the spirituality, sights, colors and sense of wonder you find in the jungles of Latin America,” says Wiseman. “We drew inspiration from the drinks and ingredients spanning across countries such as Colombia, Peru and Mexico.” Cocktails are all meticulously-crafted, shot through with herbal elixirs, exotic infusions and fresh pressed juices. Here, guests can enjoy signature libations such as Sunset on La Playa – Illegal Mezcal, Strega and Giffard Banane, swizzled with orange juice, lime, coriander turmeric elixir and a dash of aji Amarillo, garnished with a plantain chip; Above the Canopy – Ketel Cucumber and Mint, Lustau Blanc Vermut and St. Germain, combined with lime, fresh aloe, calming eucalyptus essence and topped with cucumber soda; Inca Orchid – a visually-stunning and palate-pleasing blend of Patron Blanco, pisco, lime and lemon, shaken with house-made Peruvian Chica Morada (purple corn, fruits and spices); and Theobrama Cacao – a clarified milk punch with Aberfeldy, Fino, strawberry, raspberry and rose tea, complete with a personal white sage smudge meant to spiritually promote healing and wisdom. Of course, classic cocktails, wines and a selection of beers are also on offer.
Under the direction of award-winning Chef Brad Kilgore, the food at Higher Ground is meant to complement the cocktails with a rotating selection of raw bar and small plates. Dishes might include Local Crudo, based on what’s fresh that day, with aji pepper cremose, local radishes and shaved fennel; Shrimp Cocktail with a Belizean cocktail sauce; Beef Tartare, dressed with umami oil and ancho chili and served in chilled lettuce cups; along with Oysters prepared in a variety of ways.
Beyond the unforgettable cocktails and light bites, Higher Ground is an adult playground with a variety of programming and special events. “We have so many unique activations planned with an incredible roster of talent,” says Bar Lab Managing Partner, Seth Alexander. “Whether it’s an immersive art experience, a cultural celebration, an Italian disco night or a live performance from an internationally-acclaimed DJ, there is always something happening at Higher Ground.”
Higher Ground is located on the third floor of Arlo Wynwood at 2217 NW Miami Court and is open Thursday – Sunday, 5PM – 11PM. Valet and metered street parking available. For additional information and/or to make reservations, please visit www.highergroundwynwood.com and stay up to date with events and programming on Instagram.