Photos, recap: Miami festival reunites rum family for one-day tasting event

Photos, recap: Miami festival reunites rum family for one-day tasting event

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.

The crew from Copalli Rum touted their organic, gluten-free rum from Belize.
The crew from Copalli Rum touted their organic, gluten-free rum from Belize. (Atomic Grog photo)

“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.

SEE BELOW: Images of Miami Rum Festival
* Atomic Grog gallery, plus official photos

Tobin Ellis welcomes Hurricane Hayward to the Rhum Barbancourt booth at the Miami Rum Festival.
Tobin Ellis welcomes Hurricane Hayward to the Rhum Barbancourt booth. (Atomic Grog photo)

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

Haiti's Rhum Barbancourt offered many tasty samples, from the 15-year-old rum to modern cocktails. Karabela by Stella Cho featured the 4-year-old Barbancourt 3 Stars.
Haiti’s Rhum Barbancourt offered many tasty samples, from the 15-year-old rum to modern cocktails. Karabela by Stella Cho featured the 4-year-old Barbancourt 3 Stars. (Atomic Grog photo)

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.

Trinidad 2009 is one of the newest limited-edition rums from Plantation.
Trinidad 2009 is one of the newest limited-edition rums from Plantation. (Atomic Grog photo)

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.

Continue reading “Photos, recap: Miami festival reunites rum family for one-day tasting event”

Preview, photos and event history: Miami Rum Renaissance Festival is back for a 12th taste of cane spirits

Preview, photos and event history: Miami Rum Renaissance Festival is back for a 12th taste of cane spirits

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.

Photos, recap: Miami festival reunites rum family for one-day tasting event
NEW: Photos, recap: Miami festival reunites rum family for one-day tasting event
Quick takes and highlights from the 2021 Rum Renaissance Tasting Event, including photos and our favorite sips of the day.
>>> CLICK HERE FOR THE RECAP AND PHOTO GALLERY

2021 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

More Miami Rum Festival features below
* 2019 PHOTOS AND RECAP: Rum festival returns to its roots
* EVENT HISTORY: Miami Rum Renaissance Festival year-by-year
* The Atomic Grog’s top nine Miami Rum Fest memories

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

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ABOUT THE EVENT: Miami Rum Festival highlights

Lemon Hart Rum's Miles Maximillian Vrahimis and Angelina Maria Correa (right) are serenaded by Melissa Davis of the RumTraveler.com website at the 2019 Miami Rum Festival. (Courtesy of Lemon Hart Rum)
Lemon Hart Rum’s Miles Maximillian Vrahimis and Angelina Maria Correa (right) are serenaded by Melissa Davis of the RumTraveler.com website at the 2019 Miami Rum Festival. (Courtesy of Lemon Hart Rum)

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.

Robin and Robert Burr welcome guests to their VIP Tasting Bar.
Robin and Robert Burr welcome guests to their VIP Tasting Bar at the Coral Gables Woman’s Club during the 2019 festival. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

“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.

Miami Rum Festival on social media
* Facebook page | Instagram | Twitter

Related websites
Rob’s Rum Guide: Expert reviews and news on cane spirits
Rum Minute: See Robert Burr’s video reviews
Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise: Set sail for distilleries in rum’s birthplace
Media coverage: Hear Robert Burr on the Drums and Rums podcast

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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.

The crew from Rum Java presented their full line of coffee-flavored rums, hand-crafted in small batches using roasted Java’Mon Coffee beans from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The crew from Rum Java presented their full line of coffee-flavored rums, hand-crafted in small batches using roasted Java’Mon Coffee beans from the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

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.

Longtime Plantation Rum ambassador Rocky Yeh presents Hurricane Hayward with a sip of one of the brand's latest blends at the Miami Rum Festival in May 2019. The much-loved industry veteran sadly passed away later that year.
Longtime Plantation Rum ambassador Rocky Yeh presents Hurricane Hayward with a sip of one of the brand’s latest blends at the Miami Rum Festival in May 2019. The much-loved industry veteran sadly passed away later that year.  (Atomic Grog photo)

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.

Continue reading “Preview, photos and event history: Miami Rum Renaissance Festival is back for a 12th taste of cane spirits”

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival returns to its roots after 10 years

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

After taking a detour to Fort Lauderdale in 2018, the Rum Renaissance Festival is back in Miami-Dade County for its 11th annual “celebration of cane spirits in the new world” at the Coral Gables Woman’s Club.

May 17-18 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in Coral Gables, Fla.
Quick links: The new venue | Buy tickets
More below: 2018 RumXP and Rum Jury award winners
The Tiki Times: See all the upcoming events

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

About Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

The country’s largest and longest-running rum festival moved to Broward County last year to be closer to the center of the South Florida market, and also sidle up to The Hukilau, the annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale. It created the ultimate rum and Tiki weekend in June 2018, but organizers Robert A. Burr and wife Robin Burr decided to return to their roots for a more intimate experience in 2019.

Last year’s event at the Broward County Convention Center was the sixth straight year at a large venue, reflecting rum’s ever-expanding popularity in South Florida, one of the world’s major markets for cane spirits. From 2013 through 2017, Miami Rum Festival (as the event was also known) spent five successful years at the massive Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. [See our past coverage below]

Miami Rum Renaissance actually started as small, boutique event at the Shore Club Beach Resort on South Beach in May 2009. It stayed on Miami Beach at the Raleigh Hotel Beach Resort in 2010 and Deauville Beach Resort in 2011-2012. The festival’s origins go back to 2008, when the Burrs held their first major rum tasting event for a modest 150 people at the historic Venetian Pool in Coral Gables.

Alexandre Gabriel, owner of Maison Ferrand and Plantation Rum, pours samples for guests at the 2018 Rum Renaissance Festival in Fort Lauderdale. (Atomic Grog photo)
Alexandre Gabriel, owner of Maison Ferrand and Plantation Rum, pours samples for guests at the 2018 Rum Renaissance Festival in Fort Lauderdale. (Atomic Grog photo)

With industry trends encouraging exploration of higher-end rums and smaller events popping up across the world, the Burrs decided to make the move back to a smaller venue in their home turf of south Miami-Dade. It’s serendipity that they ended up back in Coral Gables at another historic venue. The Coral Gables Woman’s Club was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Instead of accommodating the thousands of people who attended the convention center events, the 2019 festival will be limited to 500 people per day “for a more intimate and elegant experience,” Robert Burr said in a recent interview with Caribbean Journal. “We’ll feature a lot of new producers, some old favorites and a fine selection of rare, limited edition luxury rums from my collection.”

Venue and tickets: The Coral Gables Woman’s Club is at 1001 E. Ponce de Leon Blvd. Festival hours are 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, with VIP admission at 2 p.m. Tickets are $50 per day for unlimited samples, $75 for VIP access. Friday trade admission is $25.
* Buy tickets online in advance

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival highlights

American Rum ReportRum tastings: For the price of admission, guests can sample hundreds of rums from the Caribbean and beyond, from Abuelo to Zaya. Dozens of distilleries, importers, producers, distributors and boutique brands will show off their products.
* See all the brands attending

VIP Rum Bar: Robert Burr brings back his popular den of rare and high-end offerings, available for $5 for a healthy sample. Among the more than 60 offerings are such gems as Facundo Exquisito (Puerto Rico); Foursquare’s Premise, Probitas and Zinfandel releases (Barbados and Jamaica); Rhum JM Cuvee 1845 (Martinique); plus Velier Caroni 15 (Trinidad) and Velier Worthy Park (Jamaica).

Rum Education: Seminars will be offered on a variety of topics, including a deep dive into the production of Mount Gay rum in Barbados, and an exploration of the diversity of rum with Plantation’s Rocky Yeh. New for 2019, Miami Rum Renaissance is teaming up with Will Hoekenga of American Rum Report to present two seminars (5 p.m. Friday and Saturday) on the emerging U.S. market, which now includes more than 230 distilleries. Also participating in the seminars will be Phil Prichard of Prichard’s Rum (Tennessee), Tim Russell of Maggie’s Farm (Pennsylvania), and Jonny VerPlanck of Three Roll Estate (formerly Cane Land Distilling, Louisiana). In the Caribbean Journal. interview, Robert Burr predicts a “new American Rum Revolution as distilleries pop up in every corner of North America with boutique offerings often made with great pride and ingenuity. The number of rum distilleries in the USA will easily eclipse all those in the Caribbean region.”
* See the schedule of seminars

Continue reading “Miami Rum Renaissance Festival returns to its roots after 10 years”

Photos: VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to first Miami Rum Congress

Miami Rum Congress 2019

The inaugural Miami Rum Congress was an unqualified success, a star-studded gathering of rum industry experts that sold out the cozy and picturesque Shane Center in Miami Beach.
GALLERY: Scroll down to see the photos

Rum ambassador Ian Burrell kicks off The Tiki Takeover bartender battle.
Rum ambassador Ian Burrell kicks off The Tiki Takeover bartender battle.

Hosted by Federico Hernandez of The Rum Lab and global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, the event spotlighted many of the world’s top boutique brands while presenting serious discussion of today’s hottest industry issues. The tasting room featured new and exclusive bottles from a number of the most acclaimed producers and distillers, such as Foursquare’s Richard Seale of Barbados.

Other brands and distillers in attendance included Appleton and Wray & Nephew, Banks, Bounty, Caliche, Damoiseau, Deadhead, Don Q, English Harbour, Gosling, Habitation Velier, Hamilton, Hampden Estates, Mezan Rum, Montanya, Monymusk, Mount Gay, Plantation, Pusser’s, Rhum Clément, Rhum J.M., Ron Abuelo, Ron Barceló, Ron Brugal, Ron Centenario, Ron del Barrilito, Ron Diplomatico, Rum Fire, Rum-Bar, Saint Benevolence, Smith & Cross, Santa Teresa, The Scarlet Ibis, Tanduay, and Worthy Park

Author and Latitude 29 owner Jeff "Beachbum" Berry treats guests to a presentation packed with information (and rum cocktails): "Brigands, Barons & Beachcombers - The Many Faces of Planter’s Punch"
Author and Latitude 29 owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry treats guests to a presentation packed with information (and rum cocktails): “Brigands, Barons & Beachcombers – The Many Faces of Planter’s Punch.”

In addition to the wonderful Foursquare “Exceptional Cask” rums, I was intrigued and excited to get my first taste of outstanding spirits from Plantation (including the elusive Xaymaca), Jamaica’s Monymusk (coming soon to the U.S. market), Hamilton (the rebranded West Indies blend), Venezuela’s Ron Diplomatico (look for the new Distillery Collection), Saint Benevolence (a Caribbean blend that directs all profits to the needy island of Haiti), and Martinique’s Rhum J.M. (the 1996 vintage was perhaps the best rhum agricole I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting).

I caught several informative seminars, capped off by the South Florida return of author and Latitude 29 barkeep Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, regaling us with “Brigands, Barons & Beachcombers – The Many Faces of Planter’s Punch.” Meanwhile, importer and Ministry of Rum founder Ed Hamilton followed up his first-ever rum tasting at The Mai-Kai on Thursday with a no-holds-barred look at changes in the rum market over the past 25 years. We’ll be posting expanded coverage of both of these talks soon.

Continue reading “Photos: VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to first Miami Rum Congress”

A cure for your holiday hangover: All the Miracle pop-up cocktails, reviewed and ranked

Miracle cocktails by Death Or Glory

While visions of sugar plum cocktails are still dancing in my head (and on my taste buds), I would be remiss if I didn’t share my deep thoughts on the Miracle pop-up bar menu that recently dazzled imbibers at more than 80 locations around the world.
See below: Jump straight to the cocktail ratings

The inside bar at Miracle on Delray Beach by Death Or Glory. (Atomic Grog photo, December 2018)
The inside bar at Miracle on Delray Beach by Death Or Glory. (Atomic Grog photo, December 2018)

Florida was lucky enough to have nine Miracle bars, the most of any state, for the pop-up’s 39-day run from Black Friday through New Year’s Eve. I’m fortunate enough to work near the site of the dedicated West Palm Beach location and live not far from Death Or Glory, the Delray Beach craft cocktail haven that spearheaded Miracle’s entrée into South Florida.

I got a brief taste of the inventive concept in 2017, the first year of Miracle on Delray Beach. But it was enough to get me as excited as a kid waiting up for Santa when it was announced that the award-winning bar would launch a second location, Miracle on Rosemary, in a vacant space in downtown West Palm’s bustling CityPlace shopping and dining district.

This double-shot of Christmas cheer spurred an article I wrote for The Palm Beach Post following interviews with co-owner Ayme Harrison, beverage director David Bouchard, and executive chef Jessie Steel. You can find a bigger, longer, uncut version here on the blog:
* Festive ‘Miracle’ pop-up bar expands in South Florida, worldwide

The inside bar at Death or Glory's Miracle on Rosemary pop-up in West Palm Beach, which made its debut in 2018. (Atomic Grog photo, November 2018)
The inside bar at Death or Glory’s Miracle on Rosemary pop-up in West Palm Beach, which made its debut in 2018. (Atomic Grog photo, November 2018)

In the weeks that followed, I made regular stops at both locations to unwind from the hectic holiday hubbub. But more importantly, I was on a mission to sample everything on the cocktail menu along with some of Steel’s decadent dishes. The results are detailed below. As with all of my cocktail adventures, I couldn’t resist the urge to rate the drinks on my own 1-5 scale. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I also took plenty of photos that I’ll also share here.

But first, a tip of the Santa hat to Cocktail Kingdom owner and visionary Greg Boehm, who in 2014 created the original “Miracle on 9th Street” pop-up at the suggestion of his mother in the space that later became his bar Mace in New York City. (Hear Greg talk about this and many other geeky cocktail topics on the Bartender At Large podcast released Dec. 2.)

Perhaps it was simply a holiday miracle, but it appears in hindsight that Boehm omnipotently foresaw the coming confluence of craft cocktails and Christmas. The average American consumes double the amount of alcoholic drinks over the holidays than any other time of year, according to research. Now, some of us have many more craft options than the standard eggnog and coquito.

The entrance area of Death Or Glory in Delray Beach during the heart of the Miracle season. (Atomic Grog photo, December 2018)
The entrance area of Death Or Glory in Delray Beach during the heart of the Miracle season. (Atomic Grog photo, December 2018)

At Miracle, with the Christmas spirit flowing freely, cocktail newbies are more likely to dip in their toes, or just dive in headfirst. “We kind of trick them into drinking cocktails,” Boehm has been quoted as saying.

Or course, this interest has been building for years on both fronts. But while major metro areas have long become accustomed to having outstanding craft bars in every neighborhood, great swaths of the U.S. (and many countries overseas) are still in the cocktail dark ages. Enter Miracle, which has blown up as a contagious concept, adding some 30 locations last year alone. There’s no reason to believe it won’t top 100 in 2019.

Continue reading “A cure for your holiday hangover: All the Miracle pop-up cocktails, reviewed and ranked”

The Hukilau 2018 tickets on sale now: More bands, more bars, more Tiki!

The Hukilau 2018

Updated Feb. 8, 2018
The Hukilau gave its loyal fans a New Year’s treat by announcing an expanded lineup for the East Coast’s largest Tiki-themed event, giving its regular “villagers” early access and discounts on tickets. The general public can now join the party at the 17th annual mash-up of Polynesian Pop and cocktail culture.

UPDATE: The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney imagineer, Tiki on TV

The Hukilau 2018

The Hukilau: June 6-10, 2018, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram
Quick links: Tickets | Book hotel | Schedule | Bands, bars, VIPs
Previous story: Rum Renaissance Festival moves next door to The Hukilau, creating ultimate rum and Tiki weekend
See below: Bonus cocktail recipes
* Three Dots and a Dash from Three Dots and a Dash
* Nu Nui Nui from Daniele Dalla Pola of the Nu Lounge

Here are the highlights of the announcement, sent via email and posted on the official website. I also spoke directly with the event’s owner and co-organizer, Richard Oneslager, to get all the scoop on 2018. NEW: As of Feb. 8, this preview is now updated with the late January announcement.

Party like it's 2009: Los Straitjackets (left) will headline The Hukilau for a second time, while The Intoxicators will make their 13th appearance at the Tiki party in Fort Lauderdale. (Photos from The Hukilau 2009)
Party like it’s 2009: Los Straitjackets (left) will headline The Hukilau for a second time, while The Intoxicators will make their 13th appearance at the Tiki party in Fort Lauderdale. (Photos from The Hukilau 2009)

PREVIEW: The Hukilau 2018 highlights

* MUSIC: More headlining bands. The 2018 event will include some of the world’s top surf and exotica bands, including Los Straitjackets, The Madeira, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quintet and The Martian Denny Orchestra. Villagers will also be thrilled to see the return of The Intoxicators, who missed 2017 after 12 straight appearances. Other performers include The Exotics, Black Flamingos, Czarna Wolgastar, The Royal Pacifics, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, and The Hukilau’s one and only emcee during its previous 16 years, the ubiquitous King Kukulele. Look for more bands to be announced, along with special guest DJs. Bands will perform on all five days in various venues. [More details below]

* BARS: 12 Tiki pop-ups. Seven of last year’s 10 acclaimed bar teams are returning, joined by five new Tiki-themed pop-ups from around the world setting up shop all over Pier 66 at special events, tastings, and classes. Due to popular demand, a second afternoon pool party with complimentary cocktails has been added to the schedule. Back for more more rum and cocktails are bartenders from Dirty Dick (Paris), Flask & Cannon (Jacksonville), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), Nu Lounge Bar (Italy), Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), Pagan Idol (San Francisco), and S.O.S. Tiki Bar (Atlanta). Coming on board for 2018 are Death Or Glory (Delray Beach), Foundation Bar (Milwaukee), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Tonga Hut (Los Angeles), and Trailer Happiness (London). [More details below]

Rum ambassador Ian Burrell presents a symposium at The Hukilau 2017 (Atomic Grog photo). He'll be joined in 2018 by cocktail pioneer and influential musician/DJ Brother Cleve (Photo by Audrey Harrer)
Rum ambassador Ian Burrell presents a symposium at The Hukilau 2017 (Atomic Grog photo). He’ll be joined in 2018 by cocktail pioneer and influential musician/DJ Brother Cleve (Photo by Audrey Harrer).

* INDUSTRY VIPS: Cocktail influencer makes debut. Boston’s Brother Cleve will bring his vast knowledge of cocktails and music to The Hukilau for the first time. This prime mover of the craft cocktail scene in the 1990s and former member of the groundbreaking band Combustible Edison will present a symposium, make a special DJ appearance, and also have his own bar in the Tiki Tower Takeover event. In addition, rum ambassador Ian Burrell returns from London for a second straight year to host a symposium, two cocktail classes and a special rum tasting. [More details below]

* TIKI TOWER TAKEOVER: Signature cocktail party expands, returns for Round 4. Held on Thursday night in the hotel’s revolving Pier Top Lounge, the fourth edition of one of Tiki’s most exclusive events is likely to sell out just as fast as the previous three. Tickets are limited to passholders, so act now. The lineup will grow from four to five pop-ups (featuring six different bar teams), including returning participants Three Dots and a Dash and Daniele Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge Bar. Scotty Schuder of Dirty Dick also returns, teaming up with Pagan Idol for a special two-bar mash-up. The final two pop-ups will feature the craft cocktail stylings of Brother Cleve and the crew from the U.K.’s Trailer Happiness. [More details below]

* MERCHANDISE: Works of top Tiki artists on display. The official artists for The Hukilau 2018 are Joe Vitale and Donella Vitale, whose work can already been seen on the website and promo artwork. The couple is based in Orlando, where they both work for Disney in addition to being among the most recognizable artists of the Tiki revival. Fun fact: The Vitales are among a select few who have attended The Hukilau all 16 years, along with emcee King Kukulele and co-founder Tim “Swanky” Glazner. Villagers will get first shot at the event merchandise, including the 17th annual mug produced by Eekum Bookum. There will also be special items for some villagers, including a South Seas passholder pendant by Crazy Al Evans.

Bar teams from Pittsburgh's Hidden Harbor (left) and Atlanta's S.O.S. Tiki Bar will return for this year's expanded Rum Island Pool Party at The Hukilau 2018. (Atomic Grog photos)
Bar teams from Pittsburgh’s Hidden Harbor (left) and Atlanta’s S.O.S. Tiki Bar will return for this year’s expanded Rum Island Pool Party at The Hukilau 2018. (Atomic Grog photos)

* ENHANCEMENTS: Feedback from villagers. The Hukilau listened to its attendees and will implement quite a few changes: Extended hours and a second pool party on Saturday (in addition to Friday) including live music, more bars and bands (see above), a “Villager’s Lounge” tent to “meet and hang with old friends and new,” a party featuring all exotica music, and more food trucks.

* MORE SPECIAL EVENTS: Symposiums, Medusirena Marina swimshows. Symposiums, craft workshops, Okole Maluna cocktail classes, hula lessons, plus more new additions were announced in late January. These include three swimshows featuring Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in her home at the nearby Wreck Bar in the B Ocean Resort, plus symposiums on Disney’s Trader Sam’s Tiki bar concept and the heyday of Tiki on television. Craft workshops will feature a trio of noted Tiki artists, while cocktail classes will include bartenders and experts from across the country.
UPDATE: The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney imagineer, Tiki on TV

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2018 tickets on sale now: More bands, more bars, more Tiki!”

Spirited mash-up: Rum Renaissance Festival moves next door to The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, creating ultimate rum and Tiki weekend in June 2018

Rum Renaissance Festival and The Hukilau

After nine years in Miami-Dade County, the country’s largest celebration of cane spirits is moving up the coast to link up with the East Coast’s most esteemed gathering of Polynesian Pop and Tiki enthusiasts. June 2018 promises a monumental mash-up when the Rum Renaissance Festival and The Hukilau collide near Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Rum Renaissance Festival

The thousands attending the Rum Renaissance Festival on June 9-10 at the Broward County Convention Center will be just a mile from the hordes of Tikiphiles at the 17th edition of The Hukilau at the iconic Pier 66 Hotel, separated only by the whims of the 17th Street Causeway bridge. For the past five years, the Miami Rum Festival was held in April at the DoubleTree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center.

Organizers of both events say the move will create a synergy beneficial to everyone (with the possible exception of the temperance movement). Just 7 miles away is the historic Mai-Kai Restaurant, the icing on the cake of any rum and Tiki lover’s ultimate weekend.
See below: Hotels, pricing, schedules | Rum XP Awards revamped

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2018 Tiki and rum events in Fort Lauderdale
June 6-10 – The Hukilau at the Pier 66 Hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant.
* Social: Facebook page and Group | Twitter | Instagram
* Atomic Grog: 2017 recap, photos, video | More past coverage
June 9-10 – Rum Renaissance Festival at the Broward County Convention Center and Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina Hotel.
* Social: Facebook page | Twitter | Instagram | Flickr
* Atomic Grog: 2017 recap, photos, video | More past coverage

UPDATES: The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney imagineer, Tiki on TV
The Hukilau 2018 tickets on sale now: More bands, more bars, more Tiki!

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The Hukilau

“There’s lots of crossover potential,” said Robert A. Burr, who with wife Robin founded the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in 2009. “We can bring more people in” to the rum, cocktail and Tiki scenes, he said, noting that cooperation is the key. While logistics are still being worked out, “we’re going out of our way to not step on each other’s toes” and “not cross swords,” he said.

The Hukilau’s head honcho, Richard Oneslager, stressed that the longstanding Tiki event is not changing. “Our first priority is to our villagers and The Mai-Kai,” he said. “We’re not a joint venture.”

However, he was quick to add: “We want to make it beneficial to guests of both events. We’re neighbors. I don’t see them as being competition. I want to work with them as best as we can.” Many villagers will enjoy both, he said. “If The Hukilau isn’t enough, rum fest is close.”

One possible benefit will be the drawing power of the tandem events among industry VIPs and experts. Why wouldn’t a rum company send representatives to both, killing two Tiki birds with one stone? “We hope brands are receptive to coming to both,” Burr said, adding that there may also be some co-branded events.

Global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, founder of the UK Rumfest, presents a symposium at The Hukilau in June 2017. (Atomic Grog photo)
Global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, founder of the UK Rumfest, presents a symposium at The Hukilau in June 2017. (Atomic Grog photo)

“There will be economies that make sense for everyone,” Oneslager said, adding that The Hukilau will focus more on cocktails than rum, along with the event’s core emphasis on music, art, history and Tiki culture. “We’re still working out details on how to best work together.”

One possibility are perks for people who attend both events. “There will be some sort of benefit if people hold tickets to both,” Oneslager said. Burr also mentioned “fringe benefits” for attending both.

Burr agreed that the move to Fort Lauderdale and close proximity to The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai “will be much better for the Tiki junkies.” The host hotels are just across the Intracoastal Waterway bridge from each other. “It’s an easy walk,” Burr said. There’s also the possibility of a dedicated bus shuttling guests between the festivals, he said.

Map: Rum Renaissance Festival and The Hukilau

According to Google Maps, the Rum Renaissance Festival and the Greater Fort Lauderdale / Broward County Convention Center are almost exactly a mile from The Hukilau and the Pier 66 Hotel. The trip takes roughly 6 minutes by car, 9 minutes by bus, and 17 minutes on foot. The rum fest’s official hotel, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, is near the mid-point between the two.

Both sites are also conveniently located within 5 miles of Fort Lauderdale International Airport and the cruise ships at Port Everglades. The public beach near the B Ocean Resort (home of the famous Wreck Bar and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid‘s swimshows) is just a mile north of Pier 66 on Seabreeze Boulevard (aka State Road A1A). [See map] Roughly 7 miles due north is The Ma-Kai, the 60-year-old historic landmark that serves equally historic rum and Tiki cocktails. [See map]

Rums of Puerto Rico representatives at the 2017 Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami. (Atomic Grog photo)
Rums of Puerto Rico representatives at the 2017 Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami. (Atomic Grog photo)

Before the name change to Miami Rum Festival and the move to the Airport Convention Center in 2013, the Rum Renaissance Festival spent its first four years at Miami Beach hotels. The Burrs have always run their event with assistance from son Rob V. Burr, who also contributes to his father’s rum guide and online video show (Rob’s Rum Guide and Rum Minute).

Since the change to the larger convention space, they’ve constantly received requests to move back to more of a beach setting. “The main reason we are moving is people did not like the atmosphere at the DoubleTree after time,” Robin Burr said. “They want to be back by the water again.”

Continue reading “Spirited mash-up: Rum Renaissance Festival moves next door to The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, creating ultimate rum and Tiki weekend in June 2018”

The Tiki Times – November 2017 Events Calendar: Rum fests, bar tours and art shows across the globe

Tiki Festival: Island of Hawaii

The Tiki Times
The Tiki Times: Archive of past events, monthly recaps
Social media: Follow our Facebook page for updates | Pinterest

NOVEMBER 2017 TIKI EVENTS CALENDAR
Ongoing events | Upcoming events

Nov. 4-5 – Dapper Day Expo at Disneyland. Live music plus vintage and contemporary merchandise marketplace at the Disneyland Hotel, plus fall outings to both parks of the Disneyland Resort.

Nov. 3-4 – Danish Rum & Whiskey Festival in Frederiks, Denmark.

Nov. 5 – Fall Hawaiian Brunch and Bazaar at Trader Vic’s in Emeryville, Calif.

Nov. 5 – Lowbrow Aloha Holiday Hula at Hala Kahiki in River Grove, Ill. The historic Tiki bar’s latest art show features artists selling their wares, a charity raffle, plus more.
Lowbrow Aloha Holiday Hula

Nov. 5-11 – Bamboo on the Bayou in Houston, a week-long, Tiki cocktail crawl featuring some of the city’s top bartenders. Participating bars include Lei Low, Howie’s Tiki, Anvil Bar and Refuge, and many more. The Bamboo Bash street party has been postponed until March 31.
* Social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Nov. 7 – Lost Lake’s Plantation Rum release party at the acclaimed Chicago rum and Tiki bar. Paul McGee and his crew launch their own Multi-Island XO Lost Lake Private Cask rum from the venerable Maison Ferrand brand.

Continue reading “The Tiki Times – November 2017 Events Calendar: Rum fests, bar tours and art shows across the globe”

The Tiki Times – April 2017 Events Calendar: Surf and rockabilly, Miami Rum Festival, Chicago Area Tiki Tour

Tiki Night at The Mai-Kai

The Tiki Times

From the ashes of the Week in Tiki (and, later, the Month in Tiki) rises The Tiki Times. Still ambitious, but more practical, this monthly guide to what’s going on across the world of Tiki culture will hopefully be a definitive resource of where to find special events that touch on topics of interest to many Tikiphiles. You’ll find all the major Tiki festivals, plus smaller gatherings along with events that scratch our itch for rum and cocktails, surf and rockabilly music, mid-century modern design, even Disney. And don’t forget authentic Polynesian culture, the well from which Tiki springs. The biggest will get extended coverage as “spotlight events.”
Social media: Follow our Facebook page for daily news updates
Pinterest | Coming soon: Twitter and Instagram
March events: Shag art shows, Tiki bars and festivals, surf rock and more
February recap: Bar openings and closings, cocktail competitions, Modernism Week

APRIL 2017 TIKI EVENTS CALENDAR
Spotlight events: Miami Rum Festival (April 19-23)
Chicago Area Tiki Tour (April 28-30)

April 1 – Surfeño 2017 in Mexico City. The annual surf music festival features live performances by Daikaiju, The Volcanics, Los Elásticos, Hikury Beach, Los Granujas, Dr. Tritón, The Sonoras, Los Caguama, and many more.
Surfeño 2017

April 1 – Unsteady Freddie’s Surf-Rock Shindig at Otto’s Shrunken Head in New York City. Featuring The Vivisectors, Blue Wave Theory, Strange But Surf, and The Wraycyclers.
Unsteady Freddie's Surf-Rock Shindig

April 2 – Dick Dale at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. The “King of the Surf Guitar” performs a special concert in the MIM Musical Theater.
* More tour dates at DickDale.com
* Atomic Grog interview: Dick Dale: ‘I had both feet in the grave’
The Dick Dale exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix
The Dick Dale exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

April 2 – Surfin’ Sundays at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. A free, all-ages summer concert series at the Huntington Beach Pier in Southern California. Featuring Neptune Cocktail, The Curl Riders, The Riptides, Par Avion, Tiki Creeps, and Tikiyaki 5-0.
Surfin' Sundays

April 2 – Tonga Hut Parking Lot Sale & Art Show in Los Angeles celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Kon Tiki expedition. See an original piece of rope from the Kon-Tiki raft, on public display for the first time. Also featuring DJ Tonga Tom, food and drinks, Jason Lee and the Black Tides, vendors and artists, plus more.
Tonga Hut Parking Lot Sale & Art Show

April 7 – Exotia Night: A Midcentury Cocktail Experience at Slowly Shirley in New York City. Featuring live jazz and exotica by Alika Lyman, burlesque and special drink menu. Note: Postponed from March.
* Listen: The Speakeasy radio show previews Exotica Nights
Exotia Night: A Midcentury Cocktail Experience at Slowly Shirley

April 8 – Midwest Rum Festival in Chicago. Featuring industry events plus a public grand tasting, seminars, mixology demos and artist booths. Hosted by The Rum Lab at the Logan Square Auditorium with special guests including Richard Seale (Foursquare Distillery in Barbados) and Bryan Davis (Lost Spirits Distillery in Los Angeles). Pre-party on April 7 at Hala Kahiki.
* Press coverage: Chicago GoPride | The Spirits Business

Continue reading “The Tiki Times – April 2017 Events Calendar: Surf and rockabilly, Miami Rum Festival, Chicago Area Tiki Tour”

Recipes: Exotic cocktails at Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party

Exotic cocktails at Altered State Tattoo's 20th anniversary party

The Atomic Grog had the distinct pleasure of serving up cocktails on Aug. 27 for special guests of artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli at the 20th anniversary party for Altered State Tattoo, the South Florida shop that has gained him a worldwide following for his highly creative ink.
See recipes below: Altered State Zombie | Mai Ta-IPA

Mike "Pooch" Pucciarelli gets festive at the party marking the 20th anniversary of his Altered State Tattoo shopMike “Pooch” Pucciarelli gets festive at the party marking the 20th anniversary of his Altered State Tattoo shop.

Respectable Street in downtown West Palm Beach hosted the private bash, which also included a rare performance by Pooch’s hard-rocking band, Ferocious Stones; a lowbrow art marketplace featuring Altered State artists; and a DJ keeping the eclectic tunes flowing during the three-hour party. The Atomic Grog pop-up bar was featured on the back patio along with food by chef Corey Hall.

Pooch opened his modest shop in August 1996 in Lake Worth, funneling his creative energy into a new career as a small business owner. His talent as an artist (and musician) was always evident, with much of his early work centered around his acclaimed hardcore metal band Raped Ape. Pooch quickly became an in-demand tattooist, showcasing his highly original work in national magazines and building a loyal following. A lowbrow art career soon followed, with Pooch’s paintings shown at gallery shows from Los Angeles to Seattle to New York City.

Altered State Tattoo 20th anniversary party at Respectable Street: Kenny 5 (left), Pooch and JC Dwyer kick out the jams with Ferocious Stones. Many guests enjoyed cake, while Dwyer was a two-fisted drinker of Atomic Grog cocktails. (Atomic Grog photos)
Altered State Tattoo 20th anniversary party at Respectable Street: Kenny 5 (left), Pooch and JC Dwyer kick out the jams with Ferocious Stones. Many guests enjoyed cake, while Dwyer was a two-fisted drinker of Atomic Grog cocktails. (Atomic Grog photos)

The artist’s eye-popping surrealist work includes many exotic images, including Polynesian Tikis, Day of the Dead, and his own unique take on roller coasters. Full disclosure: The Atomic Grog home bar and surrounding walls feature a half-dozen Pooch prints, including Franken Tiki Island. Pooch painted a boomerang table that hangs behind the bar and also gave me this rare Tiki piece he painted. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of his work. I even traveled to his 2005 gallery shows in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Not only is Pooch a major talent in the lowbrow and tattoo art worlds, he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. A seemingly imposing figure, Pooch is actually a gentle giant, literally and figuratively. Nowadays, we typically meet up for cocktails at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, sharing our affinity for Tiki culture and exotic libations. Mrs. Hayward and I also often join Mike and Stacy (Mrs. Pooch) at the creative gastropub Sweetwater in Boynton Beach.

Hurricane Hayward mixes up the Altered State Zombie and Mai-Ta-IPA during Altered State Tattoo's 20th anniversary party
Hurricane Hayward mixes up the Altered State Zombie and Mai Ta-IPA during Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party. (Atomic Grog photos)

Continue reading “Recipes: Exotic cocktails at Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party”