Behind The Scenes Of The Miami New Times' "Best Of" Issue

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Movies have The Oscars. Music relies on The Grammys. And in Miami, we anxiously await The Miami New Times' annual "Best Of" list, where the staff painstakingly assembles the brightest stars in The 305. The findings are illuminating, controversial, and can make or break an establishment — plus, it's also a good measure of what the last year in Miami has been like.

R29 pal Jose Duran, the Web Editor at The Miami New Times, decided to share his darkest and most rewarding moments of building the 2012 "Best Of" edition (which hits stands tomorrow). Not only is the list celebrating its 25th birthday, but the categories are nearing a whopping 400 strong. We asked him some tough questions, and thanks to his four years of experience with this herculean task, he has all the right responses. See what he had to say about the stress and excitement that's been bubbling over at the New Times' office:

What was the "Best Of" section you felt most passionately about?
"My favorite section has and will always be Bars and Music. It was before I joined the New Times staff four years ago and it still is. But it was definitely more fun when I was an outsider looking in because I remember arguing with myself about the choices and saying, 'What were they thinking?' But that's half the fun, honestly — having people argue with you about your choices."

Did you guys get into any inter-office arguments? Any hurt feelings? Thrown shoes?
"Well, the staff and participating contributors try to come up with a decision on who should win. Any arguments are decided with a battle to the death. (We should take a moment of silence to honor those we lost while putting together this year's Best Of Miami.) And the only time a shoe gets thrown is when you blow your deadline. My head is still hurting."

What was the most controversial win?
"We always have a few winners that send readers into a tizzy. Give it a few days and you'll see on Twitter people saying how 'stupid' our choice was. But like I said earlier, that's half the fun."

So no choice tore your heart out?
"With over 361 categories, it's hard to remember every winner. But off the top of my head, I'd say the Broken Shaker should have probably swept every single bar category. Bar Lab knows how to make a mighty fine cocktail."

Do you ever get weighed down by the heaviness of this responsibility?
"I can't speak for everyone, but I do try to put some thought into my choices. Recognition in the issue can really bring a lot of business to a restaurant, nightclub, etc. And I wouldn't send someone somewhere that I wouldn't go to myself."

Throughout the years, do you think the picking gets harder? How does the voting process work?
"It only gets harder if you've done a couple of past editions because you always want to challenge yourself to pick something new or unexpected. As far as how we pick the winners, we race marked gerbils with numbers corresponding to places, and whoever finishes first wins. And despite what others claim, no amount of advertising in the New Times will guarantee you a win."

What if the gerbils aren't up to the task?
"We give them plenty of coffee and Five Hour Energy, so they are always good to go."

Photo: Courtesy of Kira Shaimanova/Miami New Times