As distillers and brands expand their offerings to meet the public’s ravenous appetite for rum, the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival continues to grow exponentially. Now entering its sixth year, the festival is adding an exciting new feature – Miami Cocktail Week – to its list of events that cater to both industry reps and consumers.
“We’re expanding the size and scope of the festival again this year,” said show manager Robin Burr in a Dec. 30 announcement. “Rum producers from many more countries will participate in the exhibition, bringing an exceptional selection of cane spirits to a larger audience of consumers that appreciate fine rums.”
The event’s major draw will continue to be the Grand Tasting events held Friday for industry and press VIPs, and Saturday-Sunday for consumers. The $50 admission price ($75 for VIP access) gives participants unlimited samples of a dizzying array of rums and cocktails. Last year, more than 200 were on display.
* See The Atomic Grog’s 2013 review and recap
“There is no better way to discover all the best rums in the world from so many different countries,” Burr said in the announcement. “We’re excited to introduce many new upscale luxury rums to our friends that appreciate the finest quality.” The weekend events will also again include expert seminars, live music and island lifestyle vendors.
You may have seen Martin Cate igniting flaming bowls of fun on the Cooking Channel or entertaining attendees at Tiki and rum events around the world. If you’re a cocktail or rum enthusiast, you’ve certainly heard of Smuggler’s Cove, his San Francisco lair that has redefined the modern rum cocktail and has been acclaimed as one of the world’s best bars, period.
He’s also somewhat of a hero to the Tiki home bartending community, quickly rising from hobbyist on the Tiki Central message board to bartender at the Trader Vic’s flagship San Francisco location in 2005, to Forbidden Island, his first acclaimed Tiki bar in Alameda in 2006. He sold his interest there and opened Smuggler’s Cove in 2009.
The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival celebrated its fifth birthday last month, drawing thousands of industry reps and enthusiasts to a weeklong celebration of one of the world’s most popular spirits.
The April 15-21 event marked the occasion with an impressive new venue, some informative and entertaining expert speakers and, of course, hundreds of product samples available at the weekend Grand Tasting events.
The tastings were the big draw, attracting large crowds to the Miami Airport Convention Center (MACC) for every rum under the sun, from Abuelo (Panama) to Zaya (Trinidad & Tobago). It’s this great diversity that has always made rum special, as devotees well know. Unfortunately, a dark cloud threatens to mar rum’s renaissance, but we’ll save that buzzkill for later. First, a few highlights of The Atomic Grog’s experiences during the fest.
The first five days featured the VIP parties and product judging that draw the bulk of the rum industry movers and shakers to South Florida. I caught some of Tuesday’s party at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale and rubbed elbows with a few notables from the Tiki world. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it down to Miami Beach for one of the Broken Shaker’s daily happy hours. This highly acclaimed bar in the Freehand Miami hostel is on my short list of South Florida cocktail hotspots I need to explore in depth.
South Florida is about to become the epicenter of the rum world, at least for a week, with experts from around the globe descending for the fifth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival next Monday through Sunday (April 15-21).
Large portions of the event are geared toward industry representatives (rum tastings, VIP parties, etc.) but there are two very big reasons for ordinary enthusiasts of the cane spirit to be excited:
* First and foremost, there are the Grand Tasting events held from 2 to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 20-21, at the Doubletree Miami Airport Hotel Convention Center. For your $50 admission (plus $5 parking charge) per day, you’ll have the opportunity to taste samples from among more than 200 fine rums, including high-end sipping rums and craft cocktails. In addition, there will be island-style food and vendors selling tropical clothing and decor. Keep an eye out for free giveaways from the rum companies. For the price of three or four trendy cocktails elsewhere in Miami, you’ll enjoy a five-hour total immersion in rum culture and learn a whole lot about what makes the spirit great.
The popularity of rum has exploded over the past five years, reaching heights not seen since the mid-century heyday of Tiki. If you need proof, just look at the annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, which made its debut in 2009 and has doubled in size each year.
For 2013, the largest gathering of rum experts, professionals and enthusiasts in the western hemisphere will be moving to a venue with 40,000 square feet of event space, twice the size of last year’s event. Festival organizers say they expect attendance to double from last year’s 8,000 to more than 15,000 rum-loving faithful.
Consumer interest in sugar cane spirits is growing faster than any other category of liquor. “We’re proud to say that our prediction of rum’s resurgence in popularity was on the money,” said festival organizer Robert A. Burr in announcing his fifth annual event. “An incredible range of fine rums, from casual and fun mixers to luxurious top-shelf sipping rums, will be on display. There is no better opportunity for the rum enthusiast to sample such a vast selection of spirits in one place.”
All of this flesh-eating hoopla has done little, however, to popularize a much less trendy and much more misunderstood Zombie: The infamous tropical drink that rose to infamy in the 1930s and was for decades perhaps the world’s most well-known cocktail. True to its name, the classic drink was shrouded in mystery, later becoming one of the most butchered recipes in cocktail history.
But several people and places have kept this powerful rum concoction alive and kicking, and to them we raise a hearty Zombie glass in tribute this Halloween:
The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, one of the best places in the world to sip rum and tropical cocktails, will be the perfect site for a special tasting event on Thursday, Sept. 27.
From 7 to 9 p.m. in the legendary Polynesian restaurant’s Molokai lounge, guests will sample two top-shelf rums, served both neat and in vintage cocktails. The featured rums are Fortuna 8 from Nicaragua, and Dos Maderas PX from Barbados and Guyana. Of course, you also have the option of sampling other selections from The Mai-Kai’s premium rum list and acclaimed assortment of nearly 50 classic cocktails.
Presented by Robert A. Burr, organizer of the annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, this exclusive opportunity is limited to the first 40 guests. The cost is $20 per person in advance and $25 at the door. The price includes the four drinks: One cocktail and one neat featuring each of the two rums. Click here to make advance payment and reservations. Click here for the Facebook event.
The surging popularity of rum was clearly evident at this year’s Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, which again doubled its attendance in its fourth year to more than 8,000 connoisseurs of the cane spirit. The festival was held April 16-22 at the Deauville Beach Resort on Miami Beach, plus other locations around the area.
According to the festival organizers, the attendance total included more than 6,000 ticket holders, around 450 VIP passes, and nearly 900 industry passes. Events included rum tastings, VIP parties, celebrity seminars and much more.
Organized by Robert Burr along with his wife Robin and son Rob, the festival is poised to become one of the largest and most prestigious spirits conferences in the country. The festival “surpassed expectations and served to reinforce our message that rum is enjoying a notable resurgence in popularity,” they wrote in a recap sent via e-mail. “We are showing the world that rum is fun – a delightful component of interaction when friends gather to enjoy life.”
The 2012 Hukilau will be held Thursday through Sunday, April 19-22, at The Mai-Kai and several Fort Lauderdale beachside hotels. Official sites: TheHukilau.com | Facebook
To the uninitiated, this week’s avalanche of Tiki culture, retro art and music, rum drinks and revelry may be a bit over the top. To the devotees, it’s a Polynesian paradise come to life. If you’re not quite clued in to what’s going on, it can be a bit overwhelming.
But the best part about The Hukilau and all the related events happening this week in and around Fort Lauderdale is that it’s set up like a buffet. You can sample as little or as much as you like. Just make sure to have a designated driver if you’re really going for the gusto. Below is a daily rundown on what to expect and a little guidance from a veteran. Or Click here for the full schedule. TheHulilau.com also offers these tips from the natives.
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?