Modern Caribbean Rum

In year 5, Miami Rum Congress matures into more complex and accessible spirits event

In year 5, Miami Rum Congress matures into more complex and accessible spirits event

Updated Feb. 14

Miami Rum Congress adjourns for its fifth gathering of industry and brand VIPs in February 2024 with two new venues and an expanded schedule of evening activities. Like a vintage 5-year-old rum, the event is approaching its prime years of maturity and showing potential for an expanded audience.
* Jump below: Daily schedule | Q&A with organizer Federico Hernández

Miami Rum Congress 2024

Miami Rum Congress 2024 – Feb. 9-10 at the Miami Beach Convention Center and Feb. 11 at The Gates Hotel South Beach.
* Click here for tickets | Overview, FAQ
Social media recap: Photos, coverage of Miami Rum Congress events UPDATED

The event is geared toward professionals and hardcore enthusiasts, but it also appeals to amateurs who want to dip their toes into the ever-popular spirit. The new main venue will help draw a broad audience. No longer confined by the ritzy yet cramped Hilton Cabana hotel in the Mid-Beach area, the event is moving 4 miles south to the more versatile Miami Beach Convention Center in South Beach for most of its events.

The Gates Hotel, which will host guests as well as a Sunday party, is a half mile away, roughly a 12-minute walk. The convention center, home of such varied events as the Miami International Boat Show and Florida Supercon, has ample space to host multiple groups simultaneously.

The convention center recently completed an extensive renovation and expansion that has been nominated for an Urban Land Institute award, honoring projects that elevate the standards of the industry. The center hosts more than 600,000 visitors a year and is home to $10.2 million in public art acquired by the city. There’s also 12 acres of green space, including a lush tropical park.

Daniele Dalla Pola (left) and Elis Carriero of Esotico Miami and the Kaona Room discuss the finer points of bartending in the Bartenders Head to Head Debate seminar at Miami Rum Congress on Feb. 10, 2023. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Daniele Dalla Pola (left) and Elis Carriero of Esotico Miami and the Kaona Room discuss the finer points of bartending in the Bartenders Head to Head Debate seminar at Miami Rum Congress on Feb. 10, 2023. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

But beyond the spiffy new facilities, what should excite locals and others who must drive to Miami Rum Congress is the convention center’s 6 acres of surface parking. No more wasting valuable rum-tasting time doing endless circles around the Hilton’s neighboring streets and tiny municipal lots, hoping for an empty space. Beachside hotels notoriously have limited guest parking.

The new location is also closer to downtown Miami and its nightlife, most notably the acclaimed tropical cocktail and rum havens owned and operated by Daniele Dalla Pola: His flagship Esotico Miami and the adjacent hidden Tiki speakeasy, the Kaona Room. Dalla Pola and his team will host rum dinners and other special events before, during and after the main Rum Congress.

It’s roughly 4 miles (around 30 minutes in peak Miami traffic) across the lesser-known Venetian Causeway (a $2.25 toll) from the convention center area to Esotico. There are larger, free causeways (195 and 395) to the north and south, but those routes are longer and less direct. On the Venetian route, it’s also a quick 5 minute jaunt from Esotico to Wynwood, the area’s vibrant art district.

The new Miami Rum Congress venues on South Beach: The Miami Beach Convention Center and The Gates Hotel. (Official photos)
The new Miami Rum Congress venues on South Beach: The Miami Beach Convention Center and The Gates Hotel. (Official photos)

Now that we’ve covered the logistics, let’s break down the activities day-by-day. Industry attendees and hardcore devotees will likely be attending many, if not all, of the happenings. But locals and rum fans across the state might want to pop in for just a day or two. There’s plenty going on for all levels of interest. Check MiamiRumCongress.com for the latest updates and more information.

Continue reading “In year 5, Miami Rum Congress matures into more complex and accessible spirits event”

Minimalist Tiki

Modern rum revolution hits the beach for Miami Rum Congress

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.

Continue reading “Modern rum revolution hits the beach for Miami Rum Congress”

Miami Rum Congress 2022 kicks off full schedule of worldwide rum events

Miami Rum Congress 2022 kicks off full schedule of worldwide rum events

Rum is the ultimate global spirit, produced and consumed in countless countries around the world. So as we recover from the global coronavirus pandemic, it’s only fitting that educational rum tasting events make a big comeback in 2022 after a slow recovery in 2021.
JUMP BELOW: See the full schedule of 2022 rum events

Miami Rum Congress 2022

At least 17 major rum events are set for this year, beginning with this week’s Miami Rum Congress in Miami Beach. Industry VIPs and rum enthusiasts will gather Friday and Saturday, March 11-12, for seminars, tastings and special events at the Hilton Cabana hotel.
Social media recap: Photos, coverage of Miami Rum Congress 2022 UPDATED

This will be the third live Miami event presented by The Rum Lab in association with global rum ambassador Ian Burrell. The first Miami Rum Congress was held in February 2019, featuring two days of tastings and educational seminars, plus after-parties and related events.

The 2020 festivities featured more of the same, drawing many of the rum and cocktail world’s top names to South Florida on Feb. 7-8, shortly before COVID caused the world to come to a screeching halt. The Rum Lab founder and organizer Federico Hernandez made a deft pivot, hosting popular virtual seminars that continue to attract viewers on the online Zavvy Network.

The Hilton Cabana Miami Beach sits on the property that formerly housed the Allison Hotel (1951-2005) and contains nods to the historic location.

Hernandez was able to inch back to normalcy with scaled-down, socially distanced versions of some of his live events in 2021. Following The Rum Lab’s gatherings in New York City (August) and San Francisco (September), the return of the world’s most venerable rum events – The UK RumFest (October) and Miami Rum Renaissance Festival (November) – set the stage for a full slate in 2022.

The 2022 Miami Rum Congress was pushed back from its original February dates due to the last COVID surge, but we remain cautiously optimistic about future events. The rebooted Rum Congress certainly gives us cause for optimism with its roster of top spirits experts and a swank new venue.

The beachside Hilton Cabana occupies a prime location just 5 miles from the heart of South Beach. Built in 2014, the MiMo style 10-story hotel features décor reminiscent of the golden age of 1950s Miami. It includes a stylish ballroom and meeting space in addition to its scenic ocean views.

Miami Rum Congress 2022 seminar with Matt Pietrek

The lineup of guest speakers includes more than 20 experts representing many of today’s top rum brands as well as writers and rum advocates from around the world. They include: Kiowa Bryan (Spiribam), Alexandre Gabriel (Maison Ferrand), Karen Hoskin (Montanya Distillers), Ben Jones (Saint Lucia Distillers), Paul McFadyen (Plantation Rum), Shannon Mustipher (consultant/educator/author), Matt Pietrek (Cocktail Wonk blogger and author), and Roberto Serrallés (Destillería Serrallés).

Among the more interesting seminars on the Friday agenda are “Two Decades of Rum – A Timeline of Rum’s Rise” (11:30 a.m.), “Building and Maintaining A Global Rum Brand” (12:30 p.m.), “Thoughts and Predictions on Rum’s Evolution” (3 p.m.), and “Sustainability Trends and Why They Matter” (4 p.m.).

Saturday is reserved for the VIP Grand Tasting Experience, featuring separate sessions for industry professionals and the general public. Participating brands include Angostura, Appleton, Barcelo, Bonampak, Bounty, Caliche, Chairman’s Reserve, Clement, Coconut Cartel, Copalli, Deadhead, Diplomatico, Don Papa, Don Q, El Dorado, English Harbor, Equiano, Flor de Cana, Holmes Cay, Long Pond, Montanya, Monymusk, Mount Gay, Plantation, Ron Centenario, Rhum J.M., Rum-Bar, Saint James, Smith & Cross, Tanduay, Thrasher’s, Worthy Park, and Wray & Nephew.

Shannon Mustipher prepares cocktails at The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Jim Neumayer)
Shannon Mustipher prepares cocktails at The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Jim Neumayer)

Pre-parties were scheduled for Thursday at two of South Florida’s top cocktail bars, The Broken Shaker and Esotico Miami. Saturday’s after-party will be hosted by Red Rooster Overtown. Tickets for Friday and/or Saturday’s events at the Hilton Cabana range from $45 to $180. Miami Rum Congress is urging all participants and guests to adhere to its COVID health and safety measures, including mandatory masking (except when drinking and eating), recommended vaccinations, and social distancing.

Continue reading “Miami Rum Congress 2022 kicks off full schedule of worldwide rum events”

Miami Rum Congress is in session: First annual event presents top industry experts

Miami Rum Congress 2019

Updated Feb. 21

Some of the biggest names in the spirits world flocked to South Florida for the first annual Miami Rum Congress, a two-day event featuring tastings and educational seminars dedicated to the burgeoning booze that may finally have outgrown its “party like a pirate” image.
Atomic Grog photo gallery, event recap
NEW: VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to first Miami Rum Congress

Feb. 8-9 – Miami Rum Congress at the Ronald W. Shane Center, 6500 Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach.
MiamiRumCongress.com: Tickets, schedule, more | ShaneCenter.com
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Main events | Tiki Takeover | After party
The Tiki Times: See all the upcoming events

Miami Rum Congress 2019

About Miami Rum Congress

Rum has forever been touted as the “next big thing,” a more economical and (some would argue) tastier alternative to whiskey in the hearts and glasses of aficionados of brown spirits. But, perhaps to its advantage, rum’s popularity has come at a more slow and steady pace, built from the ground up through an expanding group of devotees, event organizers and well-regarded industry loyalists. All of those folks will converge on Miami Beach to network and learn more about the world’s most diverse spirit.

Rum’s diversified, worldwide appeal is what keeps it near and dear to many. Our 2019 events calendar includes rum gatherings around the globe, from Jamaica to Czechoslovakia to The Netherlands to Madrid. And that’s just the next four months. In the United States, the Rum Renaissance Festival (set for May 17-18 in Coral Gables) has been the torch-bearer since launching in 2009 and deserves credit for being ahead of its time and paving the way for what has followed.

The Rum Lab's 2019 Rum Festival Tour

Miami, always a top market due to its proximity to the Caribbean and historic appreciation for rum, has been a step ahead of the rest of the country. But the word is out. Rum is not only fun, but it’s incredibly diverse and quickly gaining traction as a premium spirit. Smaller boutique festivals have become the norm, appealing to premium tastes.

Enter Federico Hernandez (of TheRumLab.com) and Ian Burrell (the award-winning global “rum ambassador”), who have joined forces to bring South Florida its second major rum festival. It’s clear that the demand is warranted. Tickets are selling briskly and several price points are sold out.

Ian Burrell, aka the global rum ambassador, welcomed The Mai-Kai to London in October for a special event leading up to his 12th annual UK RumFest. (Photo by The Mai-Kai)
Ian Burrell, aka the global rum ambassador, welcomed The Mai-Kai to London in October for a special event leading up to his 12th annual UK RumFest. (Photo by The Mai-Kai)

Hernandez and Burrell are on the cusp of the explosion of rum festivals worldwide. In 2007, Burrell founded The UK RumFest, widely considered to be the godfather of all rum events around the globe. In the years since, the charismatic ambassador has been on a one-man crusade, traveling to every continent on Earth on behalf of spirits companies and earning the 2018 Spirited Award as Best International Brand Ambassador. The 13th annual UK RumFest is set for Oct. 19-20.

Meanwhile, Hernandez began eyeing the vast U.S. market after launching the Rum Lab as an educational initiative in Puerto Rico in 2007. He has grown his brand to include five boutique rum festivals across American soil, including San Juan (March 2), Chicago (April 27), New York City (June 15), and San Francisco (Sept. 7).

The next logical step for Burrell and Hernandez in their efforts toward the “premiumization and education of rum” is Miami Rum Congress. “After years of attending and hosting rum events, we are combining our experiences and expertise to bring consumers and tradespeople the finest rum event in the Americas,” said Burrell in a press release. “We are bringing in expert guest speakers from around the world so that Miami Rum Congress attendees will not only have the opportunity to taste a wide array of exotic rums but can interact with and learn from top industry experts and thought-leaders. This unparalleled spirit event will be an exciting moment for the industry and monumental in shaping the modern-day rum landscape.”

Miami Rum Congress is the newest addition and the first event of the 2019 rum festival circuit. It’s not hard to lure anyone to sunny Miami Beach in February, but the lineup of VIPs and experts is nevertheless extremely impressive.

Continue reading “Miami Rum Congress is in session: First annual event presents top industry experts”