Modern Caribbean Rum

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.

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Minimalist Tiki

2015 Miami Rum Festival spotlights explosion of new brands

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival has always been a unique opportunity to sample some of the best new cane spirits before they gain widespread distribution across the country. But this year, festival organizers have taken that coming out party to a new level with dozens of emerging rum brands from South Florida, Georgia, Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname, Austria, Denmark, Japan, the Philippines and India all making their U.S. debut.

Miami Rum Festival

There will be 35 new rums making their U.S. debut at the festival, said Robin Burr, who organizes and hosts the event with husband Robert A. and son Robert V. Burr. In addition to those, another 28 rums will be making their Miami Rum Festival debut, giving attendees plenty of new products to peruse during next weekend’s Grand Tasting events. [See the full list of new rums below]

Considered the largest rum festival in the world, the event will also feature celebrity seminars, live music and entertainment, island lifestyle vendors and interactive cocktail demonstrations. It’s a rare chance for enthusiasts to meet and mingle with rum experts and professionals to learn about rum, cocktails and the surrounding culture.

2015 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival: Friday, April 17, through Sunday, April 19, at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. Tickets, hotel and more info at MiamiRumFest.com and Facebook. Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week is Monday, April 13, through Sunday, April 19, at venues throughout South Florida. More info at MiamiCocktailWeek.com and Facebook.
2014 Atomic Grog recaps: Cocktail Week | Rum Fest | Photo gallery | All past coverage

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $50 for Sunday general admission, $75 for a Saturday VIP pass, and $100 for a three-day VIP pass. In a change from past years, tickets must be purchased in advance via MiamiRumFest.com or by phone at (877) 855-3378. No tickets will be available at the door. Parking at the convention center is $5 per day, including in and out. Rooms at the Doubletree are sold out, but there are still rooms available at host hotels on Miami Beach.

Here’s a rundown on all the week’s activities:

MIAMI RUM FESTIVAL COCKTAIL WEEK

Now in its second year, Cocktail Week features special rum cocktails and activities for VIPs and rum enthusiasts spread over seven venues in seven nights, from Fort Lauderdale to Coconut Grove.

* Monday, April 13: Tiki Horror Night at the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, Coconut Grove. Enjoy Tiki cocktails while watching a kitchy horror movie.

The Grapefruit Julep, created by The Mai-Kai for the Miami Rum Festival featuring Fwaygo Rum, grapefruit juice, grenadine and bitters
The Grapefruit Julep, created by The Mai-Kai for the Miami Rum Festival featuring Fwaygo Rum, grapefruit juice, grenadine and bitters. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* Tuesday, April 14: Tiki Night at The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, featuring happy hour cocktails in The Molokai bar followed by the famous Polynesian Islander Review dinner show . Happy hour runs from 5 to 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8. Rum Fest attendees get half off the show charge and a complimentary Fwaygo Rum cocktail, the Grapefruit Julep. There will also be bus transportation between the Doubletree and The Mai-Kai for $25. Rum Fest guests must RSVP in advance by calling the restaurant at (954) 563-3272.
Related: The Atomic Grog’s Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide

* Wednesday, April 15: Havana Night at The Regent Cocktail Club at the Gale Hotel (Miami Beach), 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Continue reading “2015 Miami Rum Festival spotlights explosion of new brands”

Emeril brings Tiki to South Beach during Wine & Food Festival cocktail showdown

Updated May 19, 2015
The South Beach Wine & Food Festival was hit by a Tiki tornado on Friday night, when more than 700 people packed the Shore Club’s poolside patios for a whirlwind event hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. Seven of the country’s top mixologists competed in “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown,” bringing a true taste of the tropics to South Beach.

Tiki roundup: Reviews and ingredients for all the competing cocktails
Bonus cocktail recipe: The Mai-Kai’s Molokai Swizzle
Photo gallery: Exclusive images from The Atomic Grog
More below: See the full event preview and participant bios

Brian Miller and his Pain Reliever.
Brian Miller and his Pain Reliever.

When the smoke cleared, the winner of the Judge’s Choice award (and a $5,000 check) was veteran New York City bartender Brian Miller, host of the popular Tiki Mondays With Miller events. The People’s Choice award went to a local favorite, Miami Beach craft cocktail bar The Broken Shaker. Bartenders Randy Perez and Gui Jaroschy accepted the $2,000 prize after spending several hours feverishly mixing drinks for the South Beach masses. Other bars and mixologists competing were The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Royal Kona Resort (Hawaii), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), and Sunny’s (Miami).

Lagasse was joined by an esteemed crew of VIP judges: Author and bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), bar owner and rum expert Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), plus rum ambassador and consultant Lynnette Marrero (Diageo; DrinksAt6, New York City). There were also food stations scattered around the Shore Club’s two pools featuring notable chefs from South Florida and beyond.

After winning his top prize and posing for photos, Miller said he hoped to use the money to help fund an upcoming move to Los Angeles. Miller said he wanted to “take a seat at the big boys’ table” and “hopefully pick up where Don (the Beachcomber) left off.” However, less than a month later, Miller said via e-mail that he scuttled those plans and will be staying in New York.

Continue reading “Emeril brings Tiki to South Beach during Wine & Food Festival cocktail showdown”