The South Beach Wine & Food Festival arrives today, February 19, and continues through 22 with more than 75 events, tastings, parties, seminars, and dinners. The bash, which benefits Florida International University's dining and tourism programs, brings thousands of fans and celebrity chefs to Miami.
Forget the rest. The South Beach Wine & Food Festival is all about the drink. There are dozens of wine-centric dinners, events, and seminars. Even better, the four-day festival has plenty of cocktail-focused events with some of the best mixologists from all over the world coming to Miami to shake things up.
Even some of the signature events and parties are spirits-driven. Meatopia, for instance, offers a selection of bourbons, including Knob Creek, Basil Hayden's, Jim Beam, and Maker's Mark, to go with your barbecue.
From a retro-classic tiki cocktail competition to a lesson in mixing the perfect bloody mary, here are the festival's most spirited events.
Everything's better with a monkey.
Photo by Laine Doss
All over the world, tiki drinks are making a huge comeback. Long considered an endangered species, these potent potables have found a new voice with modern mixologists who put their own twists on classic recipes from Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcomber to entice a new generation.
There's good reason for all of this retro love. A true tiki drink is a balanced affair of fruit, spice, and plenty of booze, usually served in a creative mug and garnished liberally with flowers, plastic monkeys, paper umbrellas, and fresh fruit. One sip and you're whisked away to exotic locales where moonlight dances on calm seas.
The Art of Tiki showdown will gather modern masters of the tiki cocktail for a friendly competition to see who reigns supreme. An esteemed panel that includes celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, Martin Cate of San Francisco's Smuggler's Cove, Diego Rum ambassador Lynnette Marrero, and tiki legend Jeff "Beach Bum" Berry will judge eight of the nation's best tiki drink makers -- Paul McGee of Lost Lake, Pia Dahlquist of Mai Kai, Brian Miller of Tiki Mondays With Miller, P. Moss of Frankie's Tiki Room, Jeff Isbister of Royal Kona, Rob Ferrara of the Rum Line, Randy Perez of the Broken Shaker, and Spike Mendelsohn -- as they fight for the tiki title.
Guests will be able to taste each of the cocktails, which will be paired with Polynesian-inspired bites from Coyo Taco, Red Ginger, Shore Club, and others. So break out the vintage tiki shirts and sarongs and enjoy a retro evening of cocktails and tiki culture. Who knows? You might even get lei'd.
The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown, presented by the Captain Morgan Rum Company, hosted by Emeril Lagasse: Friday, February 20, from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Shore Club, 1901 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $95.
A good bourbon and a cigar is all you need for the ultimate relaxation session.
Photo by Laine Doss
A Smooth Drink and a Smoke
After a long day, there's nothing more relaxing than having a snifter of fine cognac, bourbon, or rum accompanied by a good cigar. For centuries, castles and villas were designed with dedicated smoking rooms to which gentlemen could retire for a drink and a smoke after a formal dinner. Now that ritual is happily enjoyed by both sexes, with more women lighting up hand-rolled cigars following supper.
The Cigars & Spirits event promises to top off a long evening of dinners and parties with the ultimate sultry nightcap. Relax on the Betsy Hotel's rooftop and take in the gentle ocean breeze while sipping exclusive and rare bourbons, whiskies, Scotches, and tequilas from Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida's portfolio. Then take a puff from a premium cigar. Experts will school you in how to choose and enjoy a cigar, so by the end of the evening you'll know the difference between a Churchill and a Corona.
The Betsy and BLT at the Betsy present Cigars & Spirits, brought to you by Cigar Aficionado: Friday, February 20, from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the Betsy Hotel rooftop, 1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $125.
The Bloody Mary: So much more than a cocktail.
Photo courtesy of Tongue & Cheek
A Bloody Good Seminar
The bloody mary's origins are murky, with at least three people laying claim to the tangy cocktail. But whether it was invented at the Hemingway Bar in the Ritz Paris, at Harry's New York Bar in Paris, or at Manhattan's famed 21 Club, this much is certain: The bloody mary is more than a mere cocktail. It's a hangover remedy, breakfast in a glass, and a slate for a good bartender to make signature additions and twists.
Most home bar enthusiasts (and, sadly, many restaurants) simply add vodka to a store-bought mix, but making a bloody from scratch is so much more satisfying. If you're up for the challenge, Francesco Lafranconi, executive director of mixology and spirits educator for Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada and founder of the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service, will show you not only how to make the perfect brunch-time cocktail, but also how to personalize it.
Of course, you'll enjoy the fruits of your labor, making this an ideal way to start your Sunday, bloody Sunday.
Bank of America Lifestyle Seminar: Exploring the Bloody Mary: A Seminar, hosted by Francesco Lafranconi: Sunday, February 22, from 10:20 to 11:30 a.m. at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, 1 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $85.
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