Minimalist Tiki

Modern rum revolution hits the beach for Miami Rum Congress

Updated Feb. 19, 2023

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 2023

It's hard to beat the views from the Allison Bar at the Hilton Cabana Miami Beach. The name is a nod to the Allison Hotel, which occupied the property from 1951 to 2005
It’s hard to beat the views from the Allison Bar at the Hilton Cabana Miami Beach. The name is a nod to the Allison Hotel, which occupied the property from 1951 to 2005.

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.

Miami Rum Congress 2023

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.

Our Top 3 sips from 2022 were: El Dorado’s Cast Strength Single Still Versailles, Holmes Cay Single Origin Edition Fiji, and the perennial favorite Mount Gay XO. We also got a rare taste of Plantation’s Cut & Dry coconut rum, available only in Barbados.

Brand owner Eric Kaye shows off the Holmes Cay rums at Miami Rum Congress on March 12, 2022. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Brand owner Eric Kaye shows off the Holmes Cay rums at Miami Rum Congress on March 12, 2022. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

A pass to attend all of the Friday seminars will run $80, while the Sunday social events cost $30. In addition to the premium rum samples, many complimentary cocktails will be available throughout the weekend, crafted by top industry professionals.
* Click here to buy tickets online

Here’s the schedule of Saturday’s seminars:

10 a.m. – Building a Brand by Focusing on Your On-Premise Strategy
11 a.m. – Rum Trends: Where are Rum Makers, Rum Brands, and the Rum Market Going?
12:15 p.m. – What Do American Rum Consumers Want Now?

Alexandre Gabriel of Maison Ferrand will participate in the seminar on Creating a Level Playing Field for Rum
Alexandre Gabriel of Maison Ferrand will participate in the seminar on “Creating a Level Playing Field for Rum.”

2 p.m. – The Evolution of Rum Styles
3:15 p.m. – Why Rum is Capturing the Attention of Whiskey Enthusiasts
4:15 p.m. – Creating a Level Playing Field for Rum
5:15 p.m. – Bartenders Head to Head Debate

These include a wide range of panelists: master distillers, bartenders, brand ambassadors, consultants. Among the most notable are: Astrophel “Troy” Arquiza (global master blender for Bacardí),
master blender and Maison Ferrand owner Alexandre Gabriel, bar owner and mixologist Daniele Dalla Pola (Esotico Miami, Kaona Room), retired master distiller John Georges (Angostura), beverage director Marie King (Tonga Hut, Don The Beachcomber), and author Matt Pietrek (Minimalist Tiki and Modern Caribbean Rum).
* Profiles of all the participants

FULL WEEKEND SCHEDULE: Download a PDF

Tiki by the Sea in Miami Beach, 2023

Wait, that’s not all. Bartenders and other industry pros with a tropical bent are extending their visit to sunny Miami with a special edition of Tiki by the Sea on Sunday and Monday (Feb. 12-13). An offshoot of the annual gathering on the New Jersey shore, this one-off event will feature seminars, pop-up bars and the infamous “garnish wars.”

Tiki by the Sea speakers and participants include Jason Asher (Barter & Shake, UnderTow), Shannon Mustipher (Modern Tropical Cocktails), Julio Cabrera (Cafe´ La Trova), and Jeanie Grant (Palmetto). It will be a bittersweet gathering for the attendees since it will be the first major event since the death of Brother Cleve in September.

The cocktail and music legend was a regular speaker and DJ at Tiki by the Sea events around the world. After his death, a tribute on @tikibytheseanj on Instagram said: “Cleve was a man who did what he loved and serves as an inspiration for us all to do the same – gone but never forgotten as a forever member of our Tiki by the Sea family. Rest in peace Cleve.”

Freddy Diaz, manning the Mount Gay booth at Miami Rum Congress in March 2022, was happy to see Hurricane Hayward. It was always a pleasure to see him and taste his cocktails and rums. (Atomic Grog photo)
Freddy Diaz, manning the Mount Gay booth at Miami Rum Congress in March 2022, was happy to see Hurricane Hayward. It was always a pleasure to see him and taste his cocktails and rums. (Atomic Grog photo)

Sadly, another recent loss in the rum and cocktail family will be remembered at Miami Rum Congress. Freddy Diaz, a longtime Miami mixologist and consultant, died in a boating accident in the Keys in January at age 46. Diaz was a stalwart of the Miami cocktail scene as a bartender, brand ambassador, and all-around bright light wherever he went.

His smile and enthusiasm were infectious. Sometimes years would pass between seeing him at rum festivals, but he was always happy to see me, sharing a hug (and sometimes more). When I last saw him at Miami Rum Congress last March, he snuck me a bottle of rum under the table with a wink. Losing one of the nicest guys in the business leaves a big void. He will be missed.
>> More on Freddy Diaz on The Atomic Grog:
* Passion Fontaine cocktail recipe (2014)
* Miami Swizzle cocktail recipe (2014)
* Miami mixologist shows how to jazz up your tired old cocktails with exotic liqueurs at Epcot Food and Wine Festival (2012)

About Miami Rum Congress

Florida Rum Society founder Jay Cocorullo will co-host a Friday seminar with Miami Rum Congress founder Federico Hernandez.
Florida Rum Society founder Jay Cocorullo will co-host a Friday seminar with Miami Rum Congress founder Federico Hernandez.

Curated by rum education firm The Rum Lab, Miami Rum Congress is desigend to be a boutique-style event dedicated to the education and premiumization of the rum category.

It’s no secret why the event have thrived since its 2019 debut, becoming the second major rum event in the area. According to the Miami Rum Congress website, Miami-Dade County is the largest rum consumer market in the country, representing more than 2.4 million cases sold per year.

Beyond Miami and South Florida, rum is experiencing a resurgence across America, considered one of the most important countries for the industry. Not many people realize that before the American Revolution, rum was the most-consumed spirit. But now, “an awakening is occurring,” the website states.

During those Revolutionary days, rum poured in from the Caribbean at such a voluminous rate that the average American adult could afford to throw back 5 to 7 shots per day, author Wayne Curtis wrote in And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. But today, it has become quality over quantity as premium craft spirits continue to surge in availability and popularity.

Federico Hernandez, founder of The Rum Lab, oversees a rum promotion empire.
Federico Hernandez, founder of The Rum Lab, oversees a rum promotion empire.

There is probably no better time than now to be a consumer of cane spirits. But unlike the the 17th and 18th centuries, both the production and appreciation of fine rum has become a global pursuit. One indicator of this is the proliferation of trade and consumer rum festivals that have spread across the world.

Our updated 2023 list below features 25 rum-centric events that attract connoisseurs, from Austria to Bonaire, Montreal to Berlin. In the United States and Puerto Rico, the driving force behind six annual gatherings of rum aficionados is The Rum Lab (est. 2006) and its founder, Federico Hernandez.

After Miami, Hernandez will stay busy all year long producing rum events in Chicago, San Juan, New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Ian Burrell (center) promotes his new Equiano Rum brand at Miami Rum Congress in March 2022. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Ian Burrell (center) promotes his new Equiano Rum brand at Miami Rum Congress in March 2022. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The co-founder of Miami Rum Congress with Hernandez, global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, produces the oldest and most prestigious event, The UK RumFest in London (est. 2006). In South Florida, we’re lucky to still have the long-running Miami Rum Renaissance Festival to look forward to in the fall.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for an event near you and follow The Rum Lab for more updated listings. The site continues to expand, featuring a growing archive of news and interviews. We love the educational infographics, and Hernandez continues to produce virtual seminars that started during the pandemic.

New on the site: Be sure to check out the list of local rum societies for one near you, browse the guide to distilleries around the world, and peruse the recommended podcasts and books.

Miami Rum Congress
* Official website | Instagram | Facebook

The Rum Lab
* Official website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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SOCIAL MEDIA RECAP

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2023 RUM EVENTS CALENDAR

Dates subject to change. Check the official sites and our continuously updated Tiki events calendar.

Feb. 7-12 – Hopetown Music & Rum Festival in the Bahamas.

Feb. 10-12 – Miami Rum Congress in Miami Beach.

Feb. 18 – Yul Rum Fest in Montreal.

Taste of Rum

March 25 – Taste of Rum festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

April 1-3 – Rhum Fest Paris.

April 11-16 – Madeira Rum Festival.

April 14-16 – BorderShop Rum & Whiskey Festival in Denmark.

Chicago Rum Festival

April 22 – Chicago Rum Festival.

May 3-5 – International Rum Summit in Paris.

May 6 – Oslo Rum Festival.

May 13 – Stockholm Rum & Caribbean Drinks Fest in Sweden.

May 25- Taste of Rum festival in Puerto Rico.

June 2-3 – Gin & Rum Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland.

June 10 – Leeds Gin & Rum Festival in the UK.

New York Rum Festival

June 10 – New York Rum Festival & Congress in New York City.

June 10-11 – Bordeaux Rum Festival in France.

June 12-16 – Bonaire Rum Week.

July 8 – Manchester Rum Festival in the UK.

July 8-9 – German Rum Festival in Berlin.

July 14-15 – Rum Show in London.

Los Angeles Rum Festival

Sept. 8 – Los Angeles Rum Festival & Congress.

Sept. 15-16 – Whiskey N Rum Show in Copenhagen.

Sept. 16 – San Francisco Rum Festival & Congress.

Sept. 22-23 – Vienna Rum Festival in Austria.

Oct. 7- Whisky & Rum Festival in Holland.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Oct. 14-15 – Salon du Rhum in Belgium.

Oct. 14-15 – The UK RumFest in London.

Oct. 31-Nov. 5 – St Barth Rum Festival and Caribbean Rum Awards.

Nov. 3-4 – Danish Rum and Whisky Festival in Denmark.

Nov. 11-12 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in Coral Gables.

* Check out more spirits festivals on The Rum Lab

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MORE UPCOMING EVENTS

The Tiki Times events calendar
UPDATES: The Tiki Times: Exclusive events guide
Check the calendar for all of the major happenings around the world, from Tiki weekenders to rum festivals to marketplaces and music fests.

The Year in Tiki 2022: Take a trip back to the year's top events
The Year in Tiki 2022: Take a trip back to the year’s top events
Relive the year’s top happenings with photos and video, social media posts, plus promotional artwork..

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RECENT RUM FESTIVAL COVERAGE

Event spotlight: Miami festival will fill your weekend with rum seminars, tastings
2022 Rum Renaissance Festival fills weekend with rum seminars, tastings
Event included two full days featuring some of the world’s best spirits and industry experts.

Miami Rum Congress 2022 kicks off full schedule of worldwide rum events
Miami Rum Congress 2022 kicks off full schedule of worldwide rum events
Industry VIPs and rum enthusiasts gather for seminars, tastings and special events in Miami Beach.

Photos, recap: Miami festival reunites rum family for one-day tasting event
Photos, recap: Miami festival reunites rum family for one-day tasting event
Our highlights from the 2021 Rum Renaissance Tasting Event, including photos and our favorite sips of the day.

Miami Rum Congress 2019
VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to 2019 Miami Rum Congress

The inaugural event was an unqualified success, a star-studded gathering of rum industry experts in Miami Beach.

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