Modern Caribbean Rum

Miami festival offers many lessons in rum appreciation

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.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival kick-off party at the Broken Shaker at the Indian Creek Hotel on Monday, April 16
Miami Rum Renaissance Festival kick-off party at the Broken Shaker at the Indian Creek Hotel on Monday, April 16. (Photo by Soul of Miami)

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.”

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Minimalist Tiki

Got Tiki trepidation? Here’s a Hukilau survival guide

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

The Hukilau

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.

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Get a Ph.D in rum appreciation this week at Miami festival

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival: Monday-Sunday, April 16-22, at the Deauville Beach Resort, Miami Beach, plus other locations. Featuring rum tastings, VIP parties, celebrity seminars and more.

Previous: Miami rum festival events include The Mai-Kai, week of VIP parties
Miami festival set for same weekend as Hukilau in April

So what do you do during the weeklong Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, which kicks off today, besides drink rum? You learn about rum, of course.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

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?

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Miami rum festival events include The Mai-Kai, week of VIP parties

Previous: Miami festival set for same weekend as Hukilau in April

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

The highlight of the fourth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival certainly promises to be the two-day Grand Tasting events on Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22, when the Deauville Beach Resort in Miami Beach hosts thousands of enthusiasts and industry VIPs for two full days of sampling the best cane spirits from around the world.

But in addition to those festivities, a wide range of events and activities are scheduled under the banner of Miami Rum Week starting Monday, April 16. Among the highlights:

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Beachbum Berry digs deep to unearth vintage Zombies, more ‘Potions of the Caribbean’

Previous: Hukilau announces mug, cocktails, new rum sponsor | Full Hukilau coverage

Beachbum Berry explains how to quickly pulse blend an original Zombie
Beachbum Berry explains how to quickly pulse blend an original Zombie at the 2011 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

In the latter years of the 20th century, there were two eras: B.B.B. and A.B.B. Before Beachbum Berry, it was the dark days, when tropical drink mixology was still mired in the depths of decades of misunderstanding and neglect. But After Beachbum Berry, that all changed.

A screenwriter and director formerly known as Jeff Berry took his obsession with finding the most authentic and painstakingly-crafted exotic cocktails of the early and mid-20th century to the masses. His five books – from Grog Log in 1998 through Beachbum Berry Remixed in 2009 – have redefined how we view Tiki drinks.

Sure, mixology probably still would have enjoyed its current and ongoing renaissance without him, but it would surely be a lot less colorful and fun place. But beyond the campy humor and aloha shirts, Berry takes his craft and research seriously. He spent 10 years tracking down the authentic recipe for the Zombie, perhaps the most elusive cocktail of its time.

You can view, and taste, the results of his research in a special symposium at the 11th annual Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, April 21. “Revenge Of The Zombie: The Tale of Tiki’s Deadliest Drink” will explore the development of one of history’s most infamous cocktails, from the 1930s to the present.

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A rum explosion: Miami festival set for same weekend as Hukilau in April

2012 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival: Monday, April 16, through Sunday, April 22, at the Deauville Beach Resort, Miami Beach. For more information, go to RumRenaissance.com.

It’s funny to see the reaction when people find out that The Hukilau, the 11th annual Tiki and rum-soaked weekender in Fort Lauderdale, has been moved to the same week as the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. “Whatever will we do?” Why, drink more rum, of course.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Last year, there was a good six-week buffer zone, so our livers had time to recover. This year, however, it’s a full-on rum onslaught. On April 19-21 (Thursday through Saturday), rum will flow liberally at The Hukilau’s beachside host hotels, and during nightly parties at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Rum cocktail authority Jeff “Beachbum” Berry will highlight The Hukilau’s tropical-themed symposiums with his latest history lesson on the Zombie.

Meanwhile, less than 30 miles away on South Beach, the largest gathering of rum experts in the world will take over the ritzy Deauville (where the Beatles once played for Ed Sullivan) with VIP parties, competitions and “grand tasting” events. Rum Renaissance Festival organizers promise a bigger and better event this year with almost twice the square footage in the main exhibit hall, and many more rum brands from around the world.

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We be Jammin: Rum Renaissance Zombie fest at The Mai-Kai

Zombie Jamboree

Related links
* See our photos from the event | Our event preview | More on Rum Renaissance
* Our recipe (with photos) for the Atomic Zombie Cocktail

Jeff "Beachbum" Berry teaches a graduate course on the Zombie
Jeff "Beachbum" Berry teaches a graduate course on the Zombie.

There was enough revelry and hard-core mixology on display this past Monday to wake the long-dead Tiki spirits at the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

The occasion was a collision course of Tiki culture and rum appreciation known as the Zombie Jamboree, the kickoff party for the seven-day Miami Rum Renaissance Festival.

The evening consisted of three components. First, Tiki drink expert and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s seminar on the history of the Zombie cocktail, then the best contemporary mixologists competing in the “Zombie Jam,” followed by The Mai-Kai’s show and dinner.

When I first heard about this event, I had to pinch myself. Had I died and gone to Tiki heaven? My favorite Mai-Kai drink was being celebrated with a seminar by my mixology guru and a contest that was just beckoning for me to enter. So enter I did.

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Yo, ho, ho! Don’t miss Rum Renaissance this weekend in Miami

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, one of the world’s premier international rum events, wraps up this weekend at the Deauville Beach Resort on Miami Beach. If you’re a rum aficionado or local Tikiphile, you’ll want to be sure to catch this unique event.

Saturday and Sunday activities run from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and include the opportunity to sample more than 100 rums, check out and purchase island lifestyle fashion and arts, and attend celebrity seminars and workshops.

The festival kicked off Monday at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale with the Zombie Jamboree cocktail seminar with author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Zombe Jam cocktail competition. Click here to see photos from those fun festivities.

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Photos from the Zombie Jamboree at The Mai-Kai

Zombie Jamboree: The Mai-Kai hosts an event to die for

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival kicks off today with a “Zombie Jamboree” at the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale from 5 to 7 p.m.

Invented by tropical drink and Tiki bar pioneer Don The Beachcomber in the 1930s, the infamous Zombie cocktail took the world by storm more than 75 years ago. When the great wave of Polynesian Pop faded in the 1970s, so did the Zombie. Its secret original recipe was seemingly lost forever with only a few remaining Tiki palaces, such as The Mai-Kai, carrying on Don The Beachcomber’s legacy.

Beachbum Berry unearthed classic Zombie recipes
Beachbum Berry unearthed classic Zombie recipes

But then along came the Tiki revival of the 1990s and “cocktail archaeologist” Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. He unearthed long-forgotten Zombie recipes in his seminal books Grog Log (1998) and Intoxica (2002), both recently re-released in the revised and updated anthology Beachbum Berry Remixed (2010).

But it was Berry’s fourth book, Sippin’ Safari (2007), that truly blew the lid off the great “lost” tropical drink recipes and the people behind them. An entire chapter explores the Zombie and its history, finally nailing down the true “original recipe.” The book’s final chapter is devoted to The Mai-Kai, one of the last places on earth making drinks directly descended from the Don The Beachcomber classics.

At the Zombie Jamboree, Berry will present his graduate-level thesis seminar on the original creation of – and the further evolution of – the Zombie cocktail, featuring samples of Don’s classic 1934 and 1956 recipes for guests to taste.

The seminar will be followed by the “Zombie Jam,” demonstrations by notable mixologists – including yours truly – with their own variations of the infamous Zombie cocktail. Guests will be asked to vote for the drink they enjoy most with the winner crowned “Zombie Master” of Rum Renaissance 2011.

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