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Toro Toro's Miami Spice Cocktail Competition: Free Samples, $5 Drinks

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For broke foodies across the 305, the year's best season is almost upon us: all hail Miami Spice! Starting August 1, our favorite annual event kicks off at hotspots across the city, which means we get our gourmet eats on sale. (Miami New Times, by the way, is sponsoring the kickoff at the Arsht Center.)

And this year, to choose the perfect cocktail accompaniment for their special menu, Toro Toro is launching a bartender competition -- and you, fellow diners, get to be the judges. All month long, you can score free samples of competing cocktails and cast a vote for your faves. Plus, score full sizes for $5.

See also: Iron Fork and Miami Spice Kickoff: DeRosa, Rapicavoli to Compete

Six of Toro Toro's staffers will go head to head on behalf of their creations. Competitors include bartenders Jorge Sotomayor, Alina Krugla, Pedro San Miguel, Jenn Espinosa, Joey Scorza and bar manager Matthew Phillips.

"We have a bunch of bartenders who are very passionate about what they do -- I'm hoping to see the guests pick one of the underdogs," says Danny Estevez, the Director of Food & Beverage for InterContinenal Miami.

Estevez extols Phillip's bar efforts. His current cocktail menu includes creative flair like basil foam, a barrel-aged cocktail and a libation where "the ice changes colors as you consume your drink."

"He's got quite a few different things he comes up with, all the bartenders are encouraged to think that way. Chefs in kitchens are creating great dishes and behind our bars bartenders are creating the same things with cocktails," Estevez says.

Several of the drinks already have names -- and it's an intriguing bunch. They include the Revolucion, the Viva el Heat and the Menage a Monkey.

The first three bartenders will compete the week of July 8 and votes will be tallied on July 14. The next set will start July 15 and the winner selected on July 21. Lastly, the champs from the first two rounds will duke it out during the finals -- the week of July 22. A champion will be named on July 29 -- just in time for the start of Spice on August 1.

Starting next week, you can stop by and sample the competing concoctions and cast your vote. Plus, you can score a full size of your favorite for just $5 -- a serious steal for a drink that would normally run $10 to $12. Viva Miami Spice!

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