Craft Spirits Festival Returns to Coconut Grove Tomorrow

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Tomorrow, on Thursday, October 9, Coconut Grove's Cruz Building will house some of the world's finest craft spirits at the Craft Spirits Festival's Grand Tasting event.

This second annual tasting, held from 7 to 11 p.m., features over 120 distinct spirits by more than 30 exhibitors. In addition to small batch and rare rums, vodkas, gins, and whiskies, the event will offer craft cocktails by some of Miami's best mixologists, giving you a "first taste" of what you can do with these fine spirits.

See also: Miami's Ten Best Bartenders

Event director Frank Moreno says that this year's event will be better than last year's inaugural festival. "First, we are at over 120 different spirits and liqueurs for 2014, which is almost double last year."

Also new for this year are celebrity bartenders pouring drinks at the first floor bar for charity. For instance? "Ana Quincoces of the The Real Housewives of Miami will prepare her signature bloody mary with her new Million Dollar Marinade."

Moreno is pleased about local restaurants providing food at the festival, including TKs at Villa Mayfair, Strada in the Grove and Calamari Restaurant, as well as specialty Nicaraguan-sourced coffee by Relentless Roasters.

Moreno says that his event offers the public a taste of the "hotly debated topic" of craft spirits. What makes that bottle of rum or gin a craft spirit, by the way?

"The bottom line is quality. The supplier knows that the consumer base is becoming more educated and delivering a product that is sub-par will not cut it in today's marketplace. As consumers taste's are becoming more sophisticated and knowledgeable, there is also a trend to try the new and unique. Suppliers are developing new taste profiles and new methods of distilling that are producing expressions that are different and incredible. This festival allows consumers and trade individuals to try what is new and unique. It's truly an opportunity to educate the palate."

Moreno, who says that his favorite spirits include bourbon, dark rum, rye, Scotch, mezcal, gin, light rum, tequila, and vodka ("in that specific order, except for any odd numbered weekdays that end in Y and months ending in R"), says that Miami's interest in unique spirits is fueled, in part, by our ever-growing cocktail community. "The concept of craft cocktails implies that there is a modicum of expertise, technique, fresh ingredients and creativity in the preparation and delivery of a cocktail. The bartender community is privy to the spirit research they do, as suppliers taste them on what is new, unique and exciting in their spirit portfolios on a daily basis and they in turn help to relay that information to the consumer."

Everyone is receiving more "spirits and cocktails education and this, in turn, will fuel the desire for better quality."

Since the mere though of sampling over 100 different spirits is overwhelming, even to seasoned cocktailers, we asked Moreno to give us a "heads up" on some brands not to miss. His picks?

  • St. George Spirits from California
  • Anchor Distilling's "amazing whiskies"
  • Haus Alpenz's unique vermouths, liqueurs and spirits products
  • Haas Brothers' tequila, mezcal and San Francisco bourbon
  • Florida-based Wicked Dolphin's debut of its line of Rumshine, made in Cape Coral

Before heading out, Moreno reminds you to be open to trying new products and expressions. "I would suggest that people try spirits they normally don't like or are unfamiliar with, see if this new expression changes your perception, you may just open your palate to a new a exciting discovery."

Tickets for the Craft Spirits Festival's Grand Tasting are $75 and are available at craftspiritsfest.com.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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