While most of the country hunkers down in frigid February with hot toddies, a new tradition has emerged in balmy South Beach: Three days of appreciating and learning about rum at the year’s first major spirits festival, Miami Rum Congress. Social media recap: Photos, coverage of Miami Rum Congress 2023NEW
The event returns to balmy Miami Beach for a fourth time this Friday through Sunday, Feb. 10-12. After skipping 2021 due to COVID, the festival will be held for a second consecutive year at the beachfront Hilton Cabana on famous Collins Avenue. With a setting like that, it’s not difficult to attract top rum industry VIPs and experts from far and wide.
Miami Rum Congress has expanded from its previous two days, adding the closing day “Brunch with a Rum Master” and “Industry Sunday Soiree” featuring a bartender competition at the scenic Allison Bar.
There’s also an event on Thursday away from the hotel. But guests won’t have far to go to enjoy the “Rum Dinner Experience” at the downtown tropical escape Esotico Miami. Note that Esotico is also hosting rum dinners Friday and Saturday after the nightly events conclude. While you’re there, be sure to seek out the bar’s hidden Tiki speakeasy, the Kaona Room.
Friday is loaded with symposiums from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some are geared toward those in industry but most have wide appeal to everyone from casual enthusiasts to hardcore rum fans. At 6 p.m., the Miami Rum Congress will salute and pay tribute to the best of the best at the “Awards, Recognitions & Cocktails” event. The evening concludes from 6:30 to 8:30 with “Rum-bón” cocktail party hosted by the Florida Rum Society and the Rum Consumers Alliance.
Like most rum events, the big draw is Saturday’s “Grand Tasting,” a smorgasbord of samples from rum labels and producers from across the globe and across the flavor spectrum. Funky Jamaican rum, check. Grassy agricole rhum, check. Sophisticated long-aged rum from central America, check. Whatever style is your fancy, Miami Rum Congress is sure to deliver.
* Click here for a detailed guide to rum production and tasting
The day is divided into three sessions. VIPs get five hours (2-7 p.m.) for $95, the industry session is 2 to 3:30 ($45), and general admission period runs from 4 to 7 p.m. ($75). Last year, we arrived late and had just a little over an hour to browse the booths. But it was still well worth the price of admission. Around 150 different rums will be available for sampling. Just be sure to be mindful of your consumption, pace yourself and have a designated driver if necessary. There are discounts available for “duo” passes for two.
Notable rum brands that will be featured at the event include: Admiral Rodney, Angostura, Barcelo, Black Tot, Bounty, Brugal, Chairman’s Reserve, Clement, Copalli, Diamond, Diplomatico, Don Q, Down Island, El Dorado, English Harbour, Grander, Holmes Cay, Long Pond, Monymusk, Plantation, Rhum J.M., Ron Centenario, Rum-Bar, Saint Benevolence, Saint James, SelvaRey, Tanduay, and Worthy Park.
While the COVID pandemic is by no means a thing of the past, the Tiki events circuit was back to almost full capacity in 2022. This also includes many rum and surf music events around the world that we also documented on The Tiki Times, The Atomic Grog’s ongoing event guide. It was great to see many old standby events back in full force, while new happenings also made their mark. Check below for artwork and links to official sites, plus images and videos from social media. THE TIKI TIMES 2023: Latest upcoming live and virtual events Social media:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
We won’t even venture to guess what a night out on the town in Miami costs these days. Sure, the bars and clubs are top-notch. But so are the prices. After parking, cover charge and a drink or two, you’re likely already down $100 without even getting warmed up. Never mind the icy stares of the too-hip-for-you crowd jostling for space at the bar.
Here’s a refreshing alternative: You could spend two full days tasting some of the world’s best spirits, learning from premiere industry experts, and hanging out with a friendly gang of easy-going rum enthusiasts. All for not a whole lot more than that C-note.
Our course, we’re talking about the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, returning to Coral Gables this weekend for its 13th event spotlighting the underappreciated spirit in the perfect setting. Miami may have many vices, but the city’s appreciation for rum is certainly one of its most endearing.
“South Florida is the No. 1 rum market in the world, and its only fitting that we present Miami Rum Fest as the best rum tasting program in the United States once a year in this location, festival co-organizer Robert A. Burr said. “Its also a chance for the international rum community to come together, from the islands of the Caribbean and the Americas to Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and beyond.”
The traditional “grand tasting” event, which offers guests free samples from dozens of new and established brands, will return for a third time to the quaint Coral Gables Woman’s Club on Sunday, Nov. 13. For at least four hours, you can enjoy tastes of premium spirits and a wide selection of cocktails, chat with reps and label owners, attend seminars and workshops, and simply immerse yourself in the laid-back atmosphere. All for just $49 (or $59 for a VIP pass).
Saves these dates now and make plans for a full year of major events across the world of Tiki culture. We’ll also keep you posted on many worldwide gatherings for fans of rum, lowbrow and mid-century modern art, surf and rockabilly music, plus some Disney events and anything of general interest to the Tiki community.
The first weekend in June brought a blast of stormy weather to South Florida, but the second weekend promises an entirely different – and much more festive – tropical disturbance. The Hukilau will innundate the Fort Lauderdale area beachfront with four days of rum-soaked activities, rockin’ surf bands and special guests from across the worldwide Tiki revival.
The 19th Polynesian Pop celebration is scheduled for Wednesday through Sunday, June 9-12, at the Beachcomber Resort & Club in Pompano Beach. Highlights include Friday’s luau on the beach and Saturday’s giant Tiki marketplace. Pool parties will feature music by top underground bands (The Surfrajettes, The Intoxicators, The Manakooras) and cocktails served up by 16 Tiki bar teams from near and far.
By Thursday, the hurricane season’s first potential tropical system will be long gone. Weekend forecasts call for rain chances around 30 to 40 percent with high temperatures near 90, a typical early summer weekend in balmy South Florida.
Most of The Hukilau’s events and social gatherings take place poolside and under shaded thatched huts at the beachside resort. Organizers are prepared in case of bad weather with back-up plans to move some events indoors, but coverings in the outdoor areas can shield guests during typical rainy days.
The event is not yet sold out, so check the tickets page at TheHukilau.com for pass availability. The best bet for locals and late arrivals is the one-day Palm Pass ($129), which includes Saturday’s Rum Island Pool Party and Tiki Treasures Bazaar, plus the evening bungalow parties. Online sales will continue to be available, but walk-ups will also be accommodated on Saturday.
Other options include the multi-day Aloha (Friday-Saturday) and South Seas (Thursday-Saturday) passes. Many symposiums and special events are included in the price of the top-tier passes. All guests receive complimentary craft cocktails from some of the world’s best bartenders as well as tastings of sponsor rums.
If you’re still looking for a room, it’s worth checking the Beachcomber first. The resort is close to selling out, but a few rooms are often held back for last-minute release. There’s also the possibility of cancellations at any time. Call (954) 941-7830 for reservations, and be aware that you’ll need to show proof of an event pass at check-in.
Don’t fret if all of the 150-odd rooms at the Beachcomber are taken, however. The beachfront along scenic State Road A1A is loaded with options, including many small boutique hotels and motels. The official alternate hotel is the Ocean Beach Resort & Suites, a half-mile to the north. Call (954) 942-2030 and mention The Hukilau for a special rate.
The move last year to the Beachcomber was party due to necessity because of the pandemic. It provided much outdoor space, along with a smaller room count as well as fewer expenses. Past host hotels have included massive properties such as the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina, which closed for a multi-year refurbishment immediately after The Hukilau 2019.
But the change did not come without some sense of serendipity. The Hukilau, after all, is named for an oceanside gathering of family and friends for a giant fishing festival.
“This is what The Hukilau is meant to be,” organizer Richard Oneslager said in a recent interview. “We’re on the ocean, doing business with a family-run property.”
The entire hotel is reserved for The Hukilau, which both limits its size and makes for a more immersive event. It’s a “complete escape to a Tiki paradise,” Oneslager said, referring to the experience as “our own little world.” Because there are no outsiders, “everyone around you is part of the show,” he said. Very few events can offer that complete package.
Oneslager said there are no plans to grow more than a modest 5 or 10 percent. He said he likes the current configuration, which gives villagers the opportunity to meet new friends, but still have an intimate experience. Previous story: More on the hotel and event history
“Having the whole property to ourselves is a big thing,” he said. While he won’t give an exact number, Oneslager said the total number of passes sold this year will be less than 750. That aligns The Hukilau more with the many medium-sized multi-day events rather than the giant Tiki Oasis in San Diego. The Tiki Times:The Atomic Grog’s exclusive events guide
In addition to all the major highlights on the schedule and noted below, Oneslager continues to add fun, last-minute features. He mentioned the return of Tiki miniature golf as well as a series of outdoor “Ohana-Rama” games that you can play at your leisure or join a competition. There will also be a Tiki bingo event Saturday to benefit the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s educational foundation.
At least 17 major rum events are set for this year, beginning with this week’s Miami Rum Congress in Miami Beach. Industry VIPs and rum enthusiasts will gather Friday and Saturday, March 11-12, for seminars, tastings and special events at the Hilton Cabana hotel. Social media recap: Photos, coverage of Miami Rum Congress 2022UPDATED
This will be the third live Miami event presented by The Rum Lab in association with global rum ambassador Ian Burrell. The first Miami Rum Congress was held in February 2019, featuring two days of tastings and educational seminars, plus after-parties and related events.
The 2020 festivities featured more of the same, drawing many of the rum and cocktail world’s top names to South Florida on Feb. 7-8, shortly before COVID caused the world to come to a screeching halt. The Rum Lab founder and organizer Federico Hernandez made a deft pivot, hosting popular virtual seminars that continue to attract viewers on the online Zavvy Network.
Hernandez was able to inch back to normalcy with scaled-down, socially distanced versions of some of his live events in 2021. Following The Rum Lab’s gatherings in New York City (August) and San Francisco (September), the return of the world’s most venerable rum events – The UK RumFest (October) and Miami Rum Renaissance Festival (November) – set the stage for a full slate in 2022.
The 2022 Miami Rum Congress was pushed back from its original February dates due to the last COVID surge, but we remain cautiously optimistic about future events. The rebooted Rum Congress certainly gives us cause for optimism with its roster of top spirits experts and a swank new venue.
The beachside Hilton Cabana occupies a prime location just 5 miles from the heart of South Beach. Built in 2014, the MiMo style 10-story hotel features décor reminiscent of the golden age of 1950s Miami. It includes a stylish ballroom and meeting space in addition to its scenic ocean views.
The lineup of guest speakers includes more than 20 experts representing many of today’s top rum brands as well as writers and rum advocates from around the world. They include: Kiowa Bryan (Spiribam), Alexandre Gabriel (Maison Ferrand), Karen Hoskin (Montanya Distillers), Ben Jones (Saint Lucia Distillers), Paul McFadyen (Plantation Rum), Shannon Mustipher (consultant/educator/author), Matt Pietrek (Cocktail Wonk blogger and author), and Roberto Serrallés (Destillería Serrallés).
Saturday is reserved for the VIP Grand Tasting Experience, featuring separate sessions for industry professionals and the general public. Participating brands include Angostura, Appleton, Barcelo, Bonampak, Bounty, Caliche, Chairman’s Reserve, Clement, Coconut Cartel, Copalli, Deadhead, Diplomatico, Don Papa, Don Q, El Dorado, English Harbor, Equiano, Flor de Cana, Holmes Cay, Long Pond, Montanya, Monymusk, Mount Gay, Plantation, Ron Centenario, Rhum J.M., Rum-Bar, Saint James, Smith & Cross, Tanduay, Thrasher’s, Worthy Park, and Wray & Nephew.
Pre-parties were scheduled for Thursday at two of South Florida’s top cocktail bars, The Broken Shaker and Esotico Miami. Saturday’s after-party will be hosted by Red Rooster Overtown. Tickets for Friday and/or Saturday’s events at the Hilton Cabana range from $45 to $180. Miami Rum Congress is urging all participants and guests to adhere to its COVID health and safety measures, including mandatory masking (except when drinking and eating), recommended vaccinations, and social distancing.
NEW: Check out The Atomic Grog’s annual calendar for all the major events across the world of Tiki culture. The Tiki Times also includes rum events, plus modernism, surf and rockabilly music, Disney and other happenings of interest to the Tiki community. It will be continually updated throughout the year, so check the link below for main calendar page frequently: UPDATES: FULL 2022 EVENTS CALENDAR
Although at times 2021 seemed like 2020 all over again, we made some great strides toward a return to normalcy amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic. Many live events returned, albeit in abbreviated or scaled-down formats. Regular virtual and online events continued, giving many a safe way to interact. The Tiki Times, The Atomic Grog’s ongoing event guide, documented many of these happenings over the past year. Check below for artwork and links to official sites, plus images and videos from social media. Stay safe and remember to follow all COVID guidance as we face further challenges in 2022. THE TIKI TIMES: Latest upcoming live and virtual events Support Tiki bars:Visit their online stores, buy the latest merchandise Social media:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
The 12th annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival may not have reached the epic proportions of past events, but it was a welcome return as we tiptoe into a post-pandemic world. Like an old friend who had only one day for a visit, the short-but-sweet tasting session on Nov. 14 brought the extended “rum family” back together in a safe space.
“Our decision to keep it simple paid off,” co-organizer Robert A. Burr said after the event. “We sold out with 500 tickets and the size of the crowd was very comfortable. It’s so satisfying to gather with our rum friends again.” Burr and wife Robin also welcomed back son Robert V. Burr to the rum fest. His move back to South Florida will enable him to once again be involved in the event, he told us during the festivities.
While socially distant interactions are still awkward, it was clear that both attendees and participating rum brands were very happy to be there. The elder Burr said many “expressed their heartfelt appreciation.”
Hosted for a second time at the historic Coral Gables Woman’s Club, the event was not spread out over multiple days like years past. The Rum Renaissance Tasting Event featured no seminars or judging sessions, but the Burrs definitely didn’t skimp on the rums. There appeared to be even more tasting booths than there were in 2019.
The tasting session for the general public ran from 2 to 6 p.m., and we spent the better part of that time catching up with old friends and sampling many fine rums. We immediately knew we were in for a treat when we entered the first of two event halls to find an elaborate Rhum Barbancourt booth manned by master mixologist Tobin Ellis. The legendary rum from Haiti was making a rare appearance in Miami with Ellis, an influential bartender and consultant from Las Vegas who made a splash at the rum fest in its early days.
I had not seen Ellis since we faced off in 2011 at the third annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival’s Zombie Jamboree at The Mai-Kai. He won that mixology contest, of course, and I remember him offering this newbie some great advice. It was fantastic to catch up with one of the bar and cocktail world’s most creative minds. It was also comforting to find out that he remains a very humble and down-to-earth guy.
Some other no-less-notable names were in the house, representing dozens of rum brands from around the world. With my time limited, I made an attempt to sample as many new and intriguing rums as possible. It was definitely tough to restrain myself from revisiting the many past favorites, including Diplomatico, Dos Maderas, El Dorado, Pusser’s, and others. Check out our past coverage for all of these, plus more.
Here are seven memories we walked away with from this year’s rum reunion in Coral Gables …
QUICK TAKES: 2021 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival highlights
BEST BOOTH: Rhum Barbancourt. The sophisticated kiosk from Haiti’s flagship brand had everything you’d want from a rum festival presenter: Classy and eye-catching displays plus a perfect photo-op spot, the full range of distinctive rums readily available for tasting, and a world-class mixologist shaking up fresh (and delicious) cocktails. It was almost unfair to the rest of the brands. Of course, we’re intimately familiar with the full Barbancourt range from its years as a sponsor of The Hukilau. And we’ve always kept our home bar stocked with the three 86-proof core products – the lightly aged Rhum Blanc, the 4-year-old “3 Stars,” and the 8-year-old Speciale Reserve “5 Stars” – along with the 70-proof Barbancourt Pango, one of the best flavored rums on the market. You’ll find several Barbancourt rums featured in our new Haitian Zombie recipe. But the brand’s crown jewel is the premium sipping rum, the 15-year-old Estate Reserve blend. Like the others, it’s distilled from sugar cane juice in the rhum agricole style and aged in French oak. We were reminded just how good this rum is after tasting the complex, nuanced and very refined sip. Rhum Barbancourt remains one of the most consistent (and reasonably priced) brands on the market.
BEST NEW RUM: Plantation Trinidad 2009. I almost skipped the booth from longtime festival participant Plantation – the popular rum brand from France’s Maison Ferrand. I own or have tasted most of the booth’s award-winning bottlings, which are sourced from islands across the world before a second aging and bottling in France. But I spotted a new one, and I’m glad I stopped to try it. Plantation Trinidad 2009 is a limited-edition blend that was aged for 11 years in ex-bourbon casks in Trinidad before aging for a year in oak barrels in France. Plantation has perfected this somewhat controversial production style, and it serves this release well. Clocking in a 103.6 proof, this is a dynamic yet delicate blend with light citrus and spice notes along with hints of gasoline (in a good way). The latter was something I don’t recall ever encountering in a modern Trinidadian rum (Angostura is now the island’s sole rum producer). It’s an intriguing release, one I definitely recommend. Just for the heck of it, I compared it head-to-head against a similar rum from the festival’s VIP Tasting Bar: the acclaimed Velier Caroni 15. This is a 15-year-old, 104-proof rum from the Caroni Distillery in Trinidad, which unfortunately closed in 2003 after a long history that included many years of supplying its rich, dark rums to the British Navy. This bottling from Italy’s Velier is outstanding, a rich and powerful rum with lots of dark fruit flavors and an oily, gasoline-like punch. One of my favorites from the tasting bar. The similarities in the two rums was clear, particularly the smoky petrol. To me, the Plantation Trinidad 2009 release comes off as a lighter, more approachable version of the Caroni 15. (Note: There’s also a 12-year-old Caroni from Velier that I have not tried.). The ABV is almost identical, and the same unique gasoline notes stand out. When Caroni closed, the majority of its remaining rum was acquired by Angostura, so it’s entirely possible some Caroni stock is used in this blend. All the Plantation website says is the rum “was chosen from the cellars of Trinidad Distillers” (which owns Angostura). There has been speculation that Angostura uses some of its Caroni stock in the “1787” expression, its top-of-the-line rum blend that’s aged for a minimum of 15 years but released at just 80 proof. It’s possible there’s also a tiny bit of Caroni in this new blend from Plantation as well.
After 18 months of tasting rum in the privacy of our home bars, it’s about time that South Florida offers a small gathering where enthusiasts can sample dozens of new and long-standing products. Luckily for us, the Miami Rum Festival makes its return this weekend for its first event since May 2019.
Billed as the 2021 “Rum Renaissance Tasting Event,” it’s limited to one four-hour general session on Sunday at the Coral Gables Woman’s Club, but that’s more than enough reason to celebrate the safe return of one of the rum world’s longest-running festivals.
Established in 2009, the Miami fest pre-dates the recent fascination among fans of craft spirits and the expansion of premium rum brands and events around the world. It presciently anticipated rum’s renaissance in the past decade and offered both enthusiasts and industry VIPs a high-quality gathering place every year, without fail.
The coronavirus pandemic put all that on hold in 2020, but founders Robert and Robin Burr are ready to welcome back their rum family for a scaled-down, one-day event that will continue to celebrate the ongoing renaissance. The general public is welcome from 2 to 6 p.m. Doors open for industry and trade at 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 14 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival at the Coral Gables Woman’s Club, 1001 East Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables. Tickets $39 to $49 per person. Limited free parking. For safety reasons, attendance is limited. Tickets may sell out in advance, so be sure to get them now or by phone at 305-350-0764. PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE
The festival includes unlimited small samples of more than 150 products from dozens of brands, from Antelope Island to Zacapa. Participants include such well-known labels as Cockspur (Barbados), El Dorado (Guyana), Plantation (Caribbean and elsewhere), Rhum Barbancourt (Haiti), Ron Diplomatico (Venezuela), Saint James (Martinique), and Tanduay (Philippines).
But you’ll also spot up-and-coming products from craft distillers including Copalli (Belize) and Prichard’s (Tennessee), along with many other small brands. It’s a chance to taste many new releases just coming to market, along with older expressions that are often hard to find.
Hundreds of connoisseurs, collectors, judges and rum lovers are expected to flock to the historic venue, which first hosted the event in 2019. They’ll have the rare chance to mingle with a room full of rum producers, master distillers, importers, distributors, retailers and other members of the spirits trade. All attendees also receive a free tasting glass.
“We’re excited that Miami Rum Fest is celebrating its 12th anniversary of bringing the world of rum to South Florida,” organizer Robert Burr said in an announcement on his longtime resource, Rob’s Rum Guide. “We’ve been visiting rum producers to gather an incredible collection of fine rums to sample for this grand tasting event. It’s an opportunity for rum enthusiasts to enjoy their favorites and discover some delightful new expressions, gain a greater appreciation and share the enthusiasm of these fine spirits with friends.”
Beyond all the booths hosted by visiting rum brands, another highlight of the event is the VIP Tasting Bar, a selection of rare, collectable, and limited-edition rums from the Burrs’ own private stash. There’s an extra fee to sample these hard-to-find and expensive rums, but proceeds benefits a local non-profit organization. If you’ve seen the Burrs’ home collection in their Rum Wreck Dive Bar, you’ll know they have a wide assortment of spirits to choose from.
The venue is a charming historic building that dates back to 1935. With wood flooring and rustic touches, it’s unlike most modern event spaces. The surrounding downtown Coral Gables district features a half-dozen hotels within a short distance of the festival. There are also many restaurants, bars and entertainment venues in the area for mingling after the event.
2019 PHOTOS AND RECAP: Smaller Miami Rum Festival offers quality, not quantity
Downsized to a smaller but classier venue after six years at massive convention centers, the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival fit into its new environment like a classic cocktail in vintage glassware. Instead of an over-the-top Tiki drink, guests were treated to a rum Old Fashioned. But the end result was ultimately just as satisfying.
While “less is more” could be a cliché, it seems to work fine in the context of a rum-tasting festival. After all, how many rum samples can you really drink in one or two days? As long as the exhibitors and brands provide top-notch products, including a nice mix of new and classic offerings, attendees should find the festival fulfilling. This was certainly the case at Rum Renaissance Festival, circa 2019. 2019 event preview:Miami Rum Renaissance Festival returns to its roots after 10 years
The Burrs held their first rum-tasting event in 2008 at the historic Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. The return to the Miami suburb in 2019 brought the festival full-circle after a decade in large event spaces across South Florida.
The Coral Gables Woman’s Club may seem like an unlikely site for a rum fest, but it worked out nicely. The crowds taxed the air-conditioning system in the 100-year-old building during the peak afternoon hours and sweltering heat of mid-May, but that’s an issue that can easily be rectified. The charm of the building, which was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1990, outweighs its faults.
As for the event itself, our afternoon visit was marked by a deep dive into an array of spirits, a reunion with old friends and a general feel of an easy-going industry gathering. Sadly, it was our last time seeing the beloved Plantation Rum ambassador, Rocky Yeh, who passed away Dec. 1, 2019, at age 42. He left a huge mark on the industry during his short but vibrant life and will always be remembered.
While it’s technically not a rum, I was thrilled to pick up a bottle of Kronan Swedish Punsch. I had seen mentions of this classic rum liqueur in cocktail books for years, and it was great to finally have one in my arsenal. Another flavored rum product, Rum Java, wowed us with its distinctive flavors. Distilled from Florida sugarcane, it was the best of several coffee rums we sampled – definitely one of the top trends of the festival.
Lemon Hart & Sons made a rare festival appearance, touting its new Blackpool Spiced Rum and the long-awaited U.S. market return of Lemon Hart 1804, the classic Demerara rum from Guyana. Ambassador Miles Maximillian Vrahimis also mixed up some of the tastiest cocktails of the day.