A blustery evening couldn't stop the Shore Club pool from resembling an exotic port of call at last evening's Art of Tiki.
This first-time event celebrated the art of the tropical cocktail, with master bartenders from some of the country's best tiki bars creating inspired drinks.
Guests were issued a sand dollar, to be thrown into the treasure chest of their favorite drink. Cocktails were also judged by a crack team of experts including Emeril Lagasse and Jeff "Beachbum" Berry.
Francesco Lafranconi, executive director of mixology and spirits educator for Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada, was tasked with curating the talent for this tiki showcase, said that while there are no "specific parameters" for making the perfect tiki drink, the cocktail should showcase the "holy trinity -- the rum, the exotic nature with fresh fruit like guava, pineapple, banana, and your spice: cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, or allspice."
After using that base as a start, the creativity kicks in. Emeril Lagasse's Tchoup Chop Bar presented a piña colada mojito, made with coconut and pineapple rums, coconut milk, and mint.
The Rum Line's Rob Ferrara's Port of Miami blended three rums, passion fruit, almond milk, lime, and cinnamon-chili syrup into a drink with a cool bite at the finish. Ferrara said that tiki cocktails are all about, "the art of blending various rums and ingredients to make a drink that's not too boozy, not too sweet. A well-balanced all-around refreshing cocktail."
Spike Mendelsohn, who used drink umbrellas in his Haole punch, said, "it's all about the flair. You want to use fresh juices and make something not too strong because you're out in the sun having fun. It's got to be refreshing."
When the votes were tallied, the judges picked Brian Miller's twist on a classic pain reliever, made with coffee infused Zacapa rum. Miller runs Tiki Mondays with Miller in New York City.
The people's choice went to Miami Beach favorites Broken Shaker for the bar's Paradise Found (which also came in third with the judges). The cocktail combined rum with fresh watermelon, mint, and a touch of bitters for depth to make a completely refreshing and ultimately drinkable cocktail. Shaker bartenders Randy Perez and Gui Jaroschy agreed that the perfect tiki potable is all about making, "something fresh, using different ingredients that make you rethink things." In the end, a tiki cocktail is more than a beverage in a glass. As Perez said, "It's the whole tiki culture."
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