Updated May 19, 2015
The South Beach Wine & Food Festival was hit by a Tiki tornado on Friday night, when more than 700 people packed the Shore Club’s poolside patios for a whirlwind event hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. Seven of the country’s top mixologists competed in “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown,” bringing a true taste of the tropics to South Beach.
Tiki roundup: Reviews and ingredients for all the competing cocktails
Bonus cocktail recipe: The Mai-Kai’s Molokai Swizzle
Photo gallery: Exclusive images from The Atomic Grog
More below: See the full event preview and participant bios
When the smoke cleared, the winner of the Judge’s Choice award (and a $5,000 check) was veteran New York City bartender Brian Miller, host of the popular Tiki Mondays With Miller events. The People’s Choice award went to a local favorite, Miami Beach craft cocktail bar The Broken Shaker. Bartenders Randy Perez and Gui Jaroschy accepted the $2,000 prize after spending several hours feverishly mixing drinks for the South Beach masses. Other bars and mixologists competing were The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Royal Kona Resort (Hawaii), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), and Sunny’s (Miami).
Lagasse was joined by an esteemed crew of VIP judges: Author and bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), bar owner and rum expert Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), plus rum ambassador and consultant Lynnette Marrero (Diageo; DrinksAt6, New York City). There were also food stations scattered around the Shore Club’s two pools featuring notable chefs from South Florida and beyond.
After winning his top prize and posing for photos, Miller said he hoped to use the money to help fund an upcoming move to Los Angeles. Miller said he wanted to “take a seat at the big boys’ table” and “hopefully pick up where Don (the Beachcomber) left off.” However, less than a month later, Miller said via e-mail that he scuttled those plans and will be staying in New York.