Time Flies When You're Having Rum

By Paula Echevarria | April 01, 2015
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Fwaygo: Hand-crafted Rum
Photo courtesy of South Florida Distillers, NEWIN TOWN: South Florida Distillers in Fort Lauderdale launch Fwaygo.

Rumrunners and bootleggers loved South Florida. Caribbean and Latin American rum traditions are part of our DNA. No wonder we’re the unofficial headquarters for the sugarcane distilled spirit.


In its seventh year, the upcoming (Apr. 17-19) Miami Rum Renaissance Festival (rumrenaissance.com) thrills its largely fan-based, consumer crowd with samples of over a hundred fine rums from all over the world. Its newly added extension, The International Trade Exposition for Rum, sheds light into the current demand and resurgence of rum. The trade-only industry exhibition will gather rum producers and product manufacturers together with importers, distributors, retailers and buyers.

Rum is now such a hot enterprise that Florida rum distilleries are mushrooming all over the state. Joining Miami Club Rum, Sarasota’s Drum Circle Distilling, Key West Legal Rum and Cape Coral’s Cape Spirits (Wicked Dolphin) is Avi Aisenberg and Joe Durkin’s new Fort Lauderdale South Florida Distillers. The new distillery recently launched its first bottled batch of Fwaygo, which will be showcased, along with the others, at the fest. The other hot event is the festival’s annual World Tiki Team Championship hosted by the Fraternal Order of the Moai, where the best tiki bartenders from the United Kingdom challenge their U.S. peers to a grueling, multi-part world tiki championship of “skill and daring.” Last year was the first time the title remained on our shores, thanks to the Bacardi US Tiki Team of nationally renowned mixologist Nick Nistico and resident tiki experts Gui Jaroschy (The Broken Shaker) and Trevor Alberts (Orange Blossom, Matador at The Edition). This win was a significant one, for it seems to have set in motion our next rum-soaked trend in cocktail culture: the revival of tiki.

HISTORY OF TIKI

Tiki culture is about escapism. Named after the Polynesian wooden deity sculptures, the kitschy movement was born post World War II and catered to GIs returning from Hawaii and the surrounding Pacific posts. Soon the 1950s were defined by images of Elvis wearing an aloha shirt, surrounded by hula girls while sipping on garnished tropical cocktails.

Tiki became more than a lifestyle. It was a frame of mind. Restaurants and bars recreated suburban jungle backdrops with Asian-Pacific dishes and complex cocktails made with freshly squeezed juices and secret-recipe specialty mixes. With the sudden surplus of rum found all over the nation, it’s not surprising that it became the leading spirit of this first wave of post-prohibition trends.

By the mid 1960s its popularity subsided. What remained was kept alive thanks to small communities dedicated to preserving mementos and supporting remaining iconic institutions of the subculture. One of the most important groups is the Fraternal Order of the Moai, whose members meet across the country and host tiki and rum-themed events such as “the world’s most authentic tiki event,” The Hukilau, which takes place June 10-14 at Fort Lauderdale’s international relic and oldest tiki mecca, The Mai-Kai.

“The ability to go to the granddaddy of all tiki bars, as well as new places that have embraced the comeback of tiki like the Broken Shaker, The Rum Line and Kreepy Tiki Bar & Lounge, does not exist in many places outside of South Florida. Our closeness to the Caribbean, central and South America makes rum a natural choice of spirit for cocktails and our yearly supply of fresh fruit and coconuts to add to those cocktails also makes us the ideal location for tiki revival,” says local member Don Rudawsky.

The Hukilau

TIKI CULTURE REVIVAL 

Tiki culture found another group admirer during the 1990s, when a subculture of the punk movement began revisiting the forgotten trend through rockabilly music and pin-up style.

This was how Kreepy Tiki Tattoo Parlour owner Jackson Valiente was first introduced to his lifelong passion and inspiration. When the time came to turn around his neighboring live music venue, he consulted with Jaroschy, who recruited Alberts to concoct an authentic tiki cocktail menu. The F.O.M helped them by sanctioning the final 10 classic cocktail selection currently offered at the bar and lounge, including a house Mai Tai, Singapore Sling and frozen Missionary’s Downfall. “It’s not just the tattoo parlor,” says Alberts. “They also fixed hot rods in the back and hosted hardcore shows. People in Fort Lauderdale are really into nostalgia, and that’s really present in their current bar scene.” The space is decked with art and memorabilia collected through the years by Valiente’s travels to Tahiti and the Marquesas. Drinks are served in traditional tiki mugs that he forges in-house himself.

One of Miami’s cocktail powerhouses soon followed suit after The Bar Lab’s Broken Shaker became the city’s craft cocktail trailblazer. After proving his prowess at South Beach’s Lure Fishbar, Rob Ferrara and his hospitality crew, Barrel Age Management, approached the Loews with the rum-centric concept of The Rum Line. “Miami is a perfect setting for rum,” he says. The watering patio oasis serves one of the most extensive cocktail menus in the city. Ferrara has chosen a more straightforward approach to his rum-based drinks, blending old-school favorites with modern flavor profiles. “Its sweetness in nature make a rum cocktail a regular fan favourite weather its served in a spirit-forward cocktail or a light and refreshing one.”


{ The Hukilau 2015 }

Four days of craft cocktail presentations, hula lessons, live tiki carvings, traditional Polynesian dances and music, The Hukilau (June 10-14) takes place at the Tiki Mecca, the historic mid-century Mai-Kai, and host hotel, the Hyatt Regency Pier 66. Hot tickets include a Three-Hour Toura long the Intracoastal with Dawn Wells, aka Mary Ann from Gilligan’s island, thehukilau.com

Article from Edible South Florida at http://ediblesouthflorida.ediblecommunities.com/drink/time-flies-when-youre-having-rum
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