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Surprise winner, new spirit of aloha at fifth annual Art of Tiki cocktail competition at South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown at the 2019 South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Tiki and South Beach: Two great tastes that don’t necessarily go great together. The glitz and glamour of Miami’s most famous tourist strip seems at odds with the laid-back island atmosphere and exotic South Seas vibe that makes Polynesian Pop so endearing.

Bacardi served up four cocktails in its sponsor bar, including a take on the Mai Tai that includes its Anejo Cuatro, a 4-year-old rum
Bacardi served up four cocktails in its sponsor bar, including a take on the Mai Tai that includes its Anejo Cuatro, a 4-year-old rum.

But like diverse ingredients in a complex tropical drink, that awkward juxtaposition may finally be working in harmony if you look closely at the fifth annual “Art of Tiki” cocktail competition during the recent South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Held Feb. 22 at The Surfcomber hotel and featuring mostly up-and-coming Miami bartenders, the festive feast of booze and food made a large leap forward after a disappointing 2018, according to our correspondent. Everything was turned up a notch, from the entertainment to the decor to the food, resulting in a better overall vibe and more successful event. Some credit should go to the event’s second-year sponsor, Miami’s venerable Bacardi rum.

Gui Jaroschy (right) and Anthony Valencia from Driftway at Generator in Miami Beach are hard at work on their GMT 5000 cocktail
Gui Jaroschy (right) and Anthony Valencia from Driftway at Generator in Miami Beach are hard at work on their GMT 5000 cocktail.

In a surprise result, the competition’s Judge’s Choice award went not to a hotshot bartender but to a quiet and unassuming chef whose complex and creative cocktail paid tribute to Cuba. Meanwhile, popular Miami restaurant Beaker & Gray was the People’s Choice, the bar team’s third win in three years. Ted Allen from sponsor Food Network hosted the party, which as usual sold out the large outdoor pool, patio and beach area behind the hotel.

Below you’ll find our full recap, including photos and reviews of all the cocktails. Also check out our photos from the Rhum Barbancourt booth in the SoBeWFF’s Grand Tasting Village, along with a cocktail recipe from New York City’s Brian Miller. We also included a recap and previously unpublished photos from last year’s Art of Tiki, along with a commentary on the history of the event.

Friday, Feb. 22 – Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach. A cocktail competition hosted by Food Network’s Ted Allen and featuring Florida bartenders, plus area chefs serving tropical-themed food at The Surfcomber hotel.
SPECIAL FEATURES BELOW
Photos, review: Exclusive images and ratings of all the 2019 cocktails
History: List of hosts, winners and sponsors from 2015-2019
Photos, bonus recipe: Blue Bayou, served by Brian Miller at the 2019 SoBeWFF
2018: Photos, recap from last year’s competition
Commentary: Bartenders, chefs are the true stars of this show

The Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown was back for a fifth year on Friday, Feb. 22, at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach.

The Art of Tiki returned to The Surfcomber for the fourth year in a row and featured another new marquee name. Ted Allen, best known for hosting the Emmy Award-winning chef competition show Chopped since 2009, was the first non-chef to preside over the Art of Tiki (his bio calls him an author and television personality). His TV role made him well suited to judge the cocktails, which ended up being his central role.

Bacardi executive, ambassador and former bartender Adrian Biggs filled the role of master of ceremonies and made most of the announcements to the crowd. To Barcardi’s credit, it seemed like the spirits giant put more money and effort into the event in its second year as title sponsor. New decor and entertainment by the Mareva Tahiti Polynesian Dancers gave the event a much more authentically Tiki atmosphere. It was as if The Mai-Kai – Fort Lauderdale’s historic Polynesian restaurant – was there in spirit, as one speaker noted.

Sponsor Bacardi put its rums front and center at The Surfcomber hotel.
Sponsor Bacardi put its rums front and center at The Surfcomber hotel.

Several Bacardi-owned rums were made available for the 10 contestants, including sponsors Banks, Santa Teresa and Havana Club (the U.S. version, of course). Among those used by the mixologists were Bacardi Anejo Cuatro, Banks Five Island, Santa Teresa 1796, and Havana Club Anejo Blanco. The contestants also challenged the judges’ taste buds with an array of unique house-made ingredients along with fresh juices, syrups, liqueurs and bitters.

In addition to Allen, the judges included journalists Belkys Nerey (Miami’s WSVN-7) and Laine Doss (Miami New Times), plus bar manager Chris Hudnall (Soho House & Co.). While there’s no Tiki in Allen’s background (that we know of), he sure seems like the kind of guy you’d want to drink with at a Tiki bar. He appeared to enjoy the festivities, but looked “more like a spectator than a host,” according to our correspondent.

The 2019 lineup featured just two 2018 returnees (last year’s champs, Jesus Perez and Ben Potts), along with two-time winner Gui Jaroschy plus many new faces:
* Kevin Andrade from Drunken Dragon (Miami Beach)
* David Cedeno, Seth Carter and Roman Naumov from MiniBar (Miami Beach)
* Emiliano Gonzalez from Casa Florida (Miami)
* TJ Palmieri from Madrina’s (Gainesville)
* Jesus Perez and Courtney Lane from The Broken Shaker (Miami Beach)
* Daniele Dalla Pola from Esotico Miami
* Ben Potts from Beaker & Gray (Miami)
* Andres Rairan from The Social Club at The Surfcomber (Miami Beach)
* Jorgie Ramos from Abi Maria Bar & Refuge (Miami)
* Anthony Valencia and Gui Jaroschy from Driftway at Generator (Miami Beach)

Particpiating chefs included: Byron Alabado of SushiSamba (Miami Beach), Adrianne Calvo of Chef Adrianne’s (Miami), Victoria Chediak of Poké 305 (North Miami Beach, Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, Miami), Brian Mullins of Ms. Cheezious (Miami, Coral Gables), Richard Sandoval of Toro Toro (Miami), and Cesar Zapata of Phuc Yea (Miami).

Continue reading “Surprise winner, new spirit of aloha at fifth annual Art of Tiki cocktail competition at South Beach Wine & Food Festival”
Minimalist Tiki

UPDATE: Mixologists take Tiki cocktails to new artistic heights at South Beach Wine & Food Festival showdown

Bartenders Gui Jaroschy (left) and Randy Perez of The Broken Shaker celebrate their Judges Choice award. Among the prizes was a rare bottle from sponsor Rhum Barbancourt.

Updated May 17, 2016

Bartenders Gui Jaroschy (left) and Randy Perez of The Broken Shaker celebrate their victory in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26. Among the prizes was a rare bottle from sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. (Atomic Grog photo)
Bartenders Gui Jaroschy (left) and Randy Perez of The Broken Shaker celebrate their victory in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26. Among the prizes was a rare bottle from sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. (Atomic Grog photo)

A hometown favorite took home the top prize at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26, while an enthusiastic bar team that traveled more than a thousand miles also came away a winner.

The Judges Choice award for best cocktail was awarded to The Broken Shaker of Miami Beach and bartenders Gui Jaroschy and Randy Perez for their crafty Sweet Micky. Hosted by Food Network’s Guy Fieri, the event featured nine of the country’s most acclaimed Tiki bars facing off during a festive event at the oceanside Surfcomber hotel on South Beach.

Some 700 guests enjoyed the many excellent cocktails and cast their own votes for the People’s Choice award, which went to Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room. The entire Porco staff of 18 people made the trip to SoBeWFF, cheering their mixologists to victory with their Alchemy Hour cocktail. The event also featured many top chefs from South Florida serving up Tiki-themed small bites in the spirit of the festival, one of the largest of its kind in the country.

The Atomic Grog’s ratings: Reviews and ingredients for all the competing cocktails
Cocktail recipes: The Broken Shaker’s Sweet Micky | The Mai-Kai’s Pupule Punch
Exclusive photo gallery: Browse images from The Atomic Grog
More below: See the full event preview and participant bios

Bartenders from Cleveland's Porco Lounge & Tiki Room are hard at work on the Alchemy Hour cocktail. They took home the People's Choice award.
Bartenders from Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room are hard at work on the Alchemy Hour cocktail. They took home the People’s Choice award. (Atomic Grog photo)

Also competing were mixologists from Fort Defiance (Brooklyn), Foundation Tiki Bar (Milwaukee), The Golden Tiki (Las Vegas), Kreepy Tiki Lounge (Fort Lauderdale), The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), and Slowly Shirley (New York City). He wasn’t part of the competition, but defending Judge’s Choice champ Brian Miller of “Tiki Mondays With Miller” in New York City was a welcome addition, mixing up a special cocktail for sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. All of the night’s drinks included at least one of four expressions of the distinctive rum from Haiti.

Across the board, the cocktails were clearly superior to those at last year’s inaugural event. The rum and other sponsor products greatly contributed to this (absinthe and sherry were other popular ingredients), but the participants also showed creativity and a knowledge of their craft that led to some high-quality creations (check out the reviews and recipes below). But this was Tiki, after all, so fun was the name of the game. The bar stations ranged from whimsical tropical oases to an Egyptian tomb, manned by mad scientists and voodoo priestesses (see photos).

The team of Perez and Jaroschy was considered a favorite after winning the People’s Choice award for The Broken Shaker at last year’s inaugural showdown, and also finishing second on the judges’ ballots. (There was no second place announced this year.) The acclaimed craft cocktail bar – located a mile north of the Surfcomber in the Freehand Miami hotel – is a critical darling, both locally and nationally. The most recent feather in its cap was being named best bar in Florida by Business Insider.

Bartender Garret Richard of Slowly Shirley in New York City prepares his Manta Ray cocktail with assistance from Sean Saunders.
Bartender Garret Richard of Slowly Shirley in New York City prepares his Manta Ray cocktail with assistance from Sean Saunders. (Atomic Grog photo)

Fieri mentioned The Broken Shaker’s acclaim in announcing the Judge’s Choice award during the climax of the event. Jaroschy and Perez were all smiles, graciously accepting the title and a bevy of prizes, including a Mavenhal bar bag and Rhum Barbancourt aging barrel. They proudly showed off the most coveted prize, a rare (unreleasd in the U.S.) bottle of Cuvée 150 Ans rum, released in a very limited bottling in 2012 to commemorate Rhum Barbancourt’s 150th birthday. The only question remaining: Will the popular bartenders be gracious enough to share their booty with their loyal followers?

But even The Broken Shaker’s fans couldn’t top the flood of fan adulation heaped upon Porco Lounge & Tiki Room, who moments earlier enthusiastically accepted the People’s Choice award from Fieri, along with all the same prizes. The Porco crew, led by general manager and head bartender Shannon Smith, posed for photos while basking in the victory. Those who weren’t working behind the bar became an enthusiastic cheering section surrounding the Porco station, urging guests to cast their ballots with tokens given out upon arrival.

Continue reading “UPDATE: Mixologists take Tiki cocktails to new artistic heights at South Beach Wine & Food Festival showdown”