Get a Ph.D in rum appreciation this week at Miami festival

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival: Monday-Sunday, April 16-22, at the Deauville Beach Resort, Miami Beach, plus other locations. Featuring rum tastings, VIP parties, celebrity seminars and more.

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Miami festival set for same weekend as Hukilau in April

So what do you do during the weeklong Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, which kicks off today, besides drink rum? You learn about rum, of course.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

For many, it’s all about the VIP parties throughout the week, and of course the two-day Grand Tasting events on Saturday and Sunday that will offer hundreds of samples of great rums and rum cocktails. But lesser known are the educational opportunities associated with all the revelry.

Seminars and lectures will be presented by high-profile mixologists, plus experts from the rum manufacturing, distilling, and blending world. You’ll get insightful information geared to both consumers and members of the trade. These symposiums range from “The History of Rum in North America” to one we’re not going to miss, “The Piña Colada Paternity Test.”

Presented by Ian Burrell, producer of the U.K. RumFest, this promises to be a fun and enlightening presentation that answers the burning questions: Who created the Piña Colada? Where was it created? And what rum was used?

Burrell will put forth the thesis that the Piña Colada might be the greatest cocktail ever created. An overstatement perhaps, but what other drink has has inspired cakes, ice cream, air fresheners, perfumes, soaps and even a hit record? It sounds like a fun cocktail history journey, with promised insights into the protagonists of the Piña Colada story. Get more info and confirm your attendance on the Facebook event for “The Piña Colada Paternity Test.”

Ian Burrell (left) and Martin Cate of San Francisco's Smuggler's Cove judge the Master Mixologist Challenge at the 2012 Hukilau

Ian Burrell (left) and Martin Cate of San Francisco's Smuggler's Cove judge the Master Mixologist Challenge at the 2012 Hukilau. (Photo by Go11Media.com)

You have to see one of Burrell’s presentations to really appreciate his energy, humor and connection with the audience. He’s a great speaker and spokesman for rum. In fact, he’s been dubbed the “Global Ambassador for Rum.” He nearly stole the show from some of the other experts who appeared with him last June in Fort Lauderdale at a special symposium during The Hukilau. Click here for photos and a recap of that event.

Burrell’s symposium is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, April 22, the grand finale of a full week filled with a smorgasbord of rum-related activities. Among the other highlights:

* The Great Rum Challenge: 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Deauville. So, do you think you can tell a Demerara rum from a dark Jamaican rum? Take part in a blind rum tasting contest with the winner earning a prize package of eight great rums, two VIP tickets to the rest of the festival, and spot as a guest judge in the industry tasting competition held Wednesday through Friday.

* Tiki Time at The Mai-Kai: Wednesday night at the legendary Polynesian palace in Fort Lauderdale. A busload of Rum Renaissance attendees will enjoy an evening of historic rum cocktails, plus a special seating at the dinner show. Join the revelry during happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. or hang out all night and enjoy the one-of-a-kind atmosphere, fine food and tropical drinks that date back to the early days of Tiki. The Hukilau also kicks off the next day, so you’re likely to find early arrivals roaming The Mai-Kai’s dark dining rooms and bar as well.

The U.S. Tiki Team made a valiant effort last year but fell short against its competition from the United Kingdom

The U.S. Tiki Team made a valiant effort last year but fell short against its competition from the United Kingdom. (Photo from RumRenaissance.com)

* Grand Tasting Events: 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Deauville ballroom. For just $40 per day, guests can sample many of the more than 200 rums on display from more than 30 countries. You can also meet brand representatives, attend the aforementioned seminars, check out island-themed merchandise, and watch cocktail competitions.

The highlight of the competitions is a showdown of Olympic proportions: The two-time champion U.K. Tiki Team will defend its crown against their American peers in the “World Tiki Team Championship.” The teams will compete in a series of contests of skill, knowledge and teamwork with a grand finale that promises cocktails on a monumental scale (see photo above).

And as the weekend evenings wind down, you can always check out late-night parties in the Jazz Club hosted by Mod Miami and dubbed “Rum-Rum-A-Go-Go.”

Buy tickets, check the full schedule and more at RumRenaissance.com and like the Facebook page.

Related: Past Rum Renaissance coverage | More about rum cocktails | Hukilau 2012
Mai-Kai cocktail review: Piña Colada | Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide

About Hurricane Hayward

A professional journalist and Florida resident for more than 30 years, Jim "Hurricane" Hayward shares his obsession with Polynesian Pop and other retro styles on his blog, The Atomic Grog. Jim's roots in mid-century and reto culture go back to his childhood in the 1960s, when he tagged along with his parents to Tiki restaurants and his father's custom car shows. His experience in journalism, mixology, and more than 20 years as an independent concert promoter make him a jack-of-all-trades in the South Florida scene. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Jim is a longtime web producer for The Palm Beach Post. In his spare time, he has promoted hundreds of rock, punk, and indie concerts under the Slammie Productions name since the early 1990s. In 2011, he launched The Atomic Grog to extensively cover events, music, art, cocktails, and culture with a retro slant. Jim earned his nickname by virtue of both his dangerous exotic drinks and his longtime position producing The Post's tropical weather website.
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