Even though the South Beach Wine & Food Festival began as a humble wine dinner, it has grown into a full-fledged spirited affair. With the rise of craft cocktails nationwide came some of the staple events that make the fest a must-do. This year's edition will be no different, with many favorite spirits-centric events back on the roster for attendees to enjoy in the form of brunches, happy hours, and late-night bacchanals. Here's the lowdown on the booziest events at this year's SOBEWFF.
Craft-y Happy Hour. The week's spirited adventures begin at the Craft-y Happy Hour, hosted by Marc Murphy at Bodega Taqueria, in collaboration with the local craft crusaders of Craft Spirits Fest. It's an opportunity to sample some the best craft, small-batch, and artisanal spirits, served by Miami's top bartenders and brand ambassadors. Expect to enjoy cocktails shaken by the city's bartending legend, cantinero Julio Cabrera, who has been collaborating with the brands Fifty Pounds Gin and Liquore Strega since the event first popped up four years ago. 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, February 22, at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila, 1220 16th St., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $95 via sobewff.org/crafty.
King's Hawaiian presents the Taste of Aloha and Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown. The annual Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown, hosted by Food Network's Anne Burrell, will pit some of the nation's most revered cocktail institutions against one another with the goal of creating the evening's most spectacular libation, worthy of the gods of tiki. This is no easy feat, because those who appreciate the tiki gospel know that the five basic tastes — sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami — must blend harmoniously in these rum-centric offerings.
This year, the luau will be inspired by the United States' own slice of the Pacific, so expect the bites prepared by the guest chefs also participating at the event to pack some serious Hawaiian flair. The Miami bars participating include Beaker & Gray, the Anderson, Employees Only, Shelley's, Alter, the Bend, and the Social Club at the Surfcomber. The newcomer to keep an eye on is Derek Brumfield, a tiki veteran and program developer of New Orleans' Mayhaw Bar at St. Roch Market. Brumfield and his team will set up shop in St. Roch Market Miami in the Design District, and their cocktail is a promise of things to come. "I'm excited to see how well it's received in a new city, home to so many Latin cultures," Brumfield says. "I've always loved exploring tiki applications for underutilized Latin spirits such as pisco from Peru; artisanal cachaça like Avua; mezcal; and aguardiente. I've always appreciated how tiki allows bartenders to be superimaginative and technical without taking itself too seriously." Brumfield looks to explore these Latin spirits in his new menu, and being a part of this year's competition is like an induction into the South Florida bartending community. 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, February 23, poolside at the Surfcomber, 1717 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets are sold out.
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Bacardi Presents Walshy Fire's Rum & Bass Beach Party. Come Saturday night, get ready to let loose and set your soul aflame to the irresistible rhythms and beats of Walshy Fire, along with local DJ Irie, at the Bacardi Rum & Bass Beach Party. Rest assured the rum cocktails and bites will flow all night long. Participating restaurants include culinary power couple Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis' Southern-comfort haunt, Root & Bone; Mondrian Caffe; and Fort Lauderdale's Colada Cuban Coffee House & Eatery. For dessert, nosh on local sugar pusher Letty Alvarez's LA Sweetz; you might know her from her appearances on hit shows such as Cupcake Wars and Cake Boss. 9 p.m. to midnight Saturday, February 24, beachside at the Delano, 1 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $100 via sobewff.org/bacardi.
Grand Bloody Mary Brunch, hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian and Aarón Sánchez. Food Network's celebrity chefs of choice, Aarón Sánchez and Geoffrey Zakarian, will host the Grand Bloody Mary Brunch at the latter's South Florida restaurant, Point Royal, inside the Diplomat Beach Resort. The event is part of the Crave Greater Fort Lauderdale Series, which celebrates its third year since restaurants and venues in Broward's major city became a part of the roster of SOBEWFF events. The walk-around soiree will be reminiscent of a New Orleans jazz brunch, so expect dapper outfits and sultry tunes to mark the cadence of your second line through the extensive raw bar as you sip bloody marys till your heart's content. If that doesn't get your taste buds going, perhaps the promise of a dessert room will be the selling point. 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, February 25, at Point Royal at the Diplomat Beach Resort, 3555 S. Ocean Dr., Hollywood. Tickets are sold out.
Goya Foods' Swine, Wine & Spirits, presented by the National Pork Board, hosted by Giorgio Rapicavoli, featuring Chefs Found in Miami. Closing the activity-filled week is Swine, Wine & Spirits at the Biltmore in Coral Gables. This event is popular among locals because it celebrates Miami's Latin culture and hosts some of the Magic City's most revered chefs as they present inventive pork-centric dishes. This year, they've teamed up with the guys behind the popular blog Spirited Miami to curate cocktail pairings for each dish. "We're looking to bring locals to taste cocktails by locals," Gabriel Urrutia of Spirited Miami says. " We teamed up with Bacardi rums as well as Dewar's to pair some tasty cocktails with some of Miami's best chefs." Toques include Eileen Andrade from Finka Table & Tap, Michael Beltran from Ariete, and Fernando Desa from Goya Foods International. The libations will pay homage to Miami's Cuban community through tasty classics such as the Ocho old-fashioned and moderns such as Audrey Saunders' the Old Cuban — a refreshing, citrusy hybrid of a mojito and a French 75 that will help you wash down all of that delicious pork. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday, February 25, at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. Tickets cost $105 via sobewff.org/latin.