The Rum Renaissance Festival Grand Tasting really hit it out of the ballpark this weekend with a much larger exhibit space compared to last year. The Deauville Hotel ballroom turned into rum heaven where dozens of brands showed off their spirits, ranging from clear whites for mixing to dark aged rums for sipping and everything in between. A second ballroom served as a competition stage and booth space for rum lifestyle products.
Leading up to the weekend: a Zombie Jamboree, numerous VIP parties and judging sessions by the RumXP squad of international experts.
Saturday boasted a lively crowd that seemed greatly inclined to dancing and ended with more butt shaking at an Appleton Rum VIP party at The Delano's Florida Room, which was great until the typical guidos and barely legal bitches of South Beach clubdom arrived.
Sunday was definitely calmer.
On both days, rum experts delivered informative and entertaining seminars in two separate conference rooms, which gave some relief to the frenzied rum tasting going on downstairs.
Among the sessions: Philip Duff spoke on rum terroir and asked if it really exists -- ingredients can come from several islands while aging happens in Europe, for example. Journalist and author Ian Williams, aka Rum Pundit, discussed rum history, which is important to America's past. And Global Rum Ambassador Ian Burrel lectured on the proper daiquiri, which has a fascinating history tracing back to Indonesia and traversing the entire path of new world colonization.
(Click on the subject links for exclusive interviews.)
The weekend ended late Sunday afternoon with a wild tiki drink competition where zombie cocktail fanatics from across the pond won first prize.
Indeed, you'd have to be a zombie in a coma to not have a blast at this event while learning a thing or two about cane spirits. And though it was buzzing with energy, rum groupies young and old are a fun, laid-back crowd. All snobbery checked in at the door. Now that's refreshing.
Oops! Someone's boob got tikied. It's a badge of honor!
My favorite cocktail of all this year used savory elements to balance out the sweetness of the rum. Move over mojito!
1 1/2 oz. Dos Maderas 5 + 3
2 muddled basil leaves
1 pounded jalapeño slice
3/4 oz. Boiron passion fruit purée
3/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz. Boiron lime juice
Shake with ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a basil leaf and jalapeño slice.