South Beach Wine and Food Festival: Retro cocktails highlight spirited night at Drink Fort Lauderdale

On Friday night, spirits from every decade of the 20th century and beyond beckoned from cocktail glasses in FAT Village, where the boozy get-down Drink Fort Lauderdale served up a dozen retro drinks.

One of the Taste Fort Lauderdale gatherings hosted by the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, the sold-out mixer offered pina coladas in a coconut and India Pale Ale foam-topped tequila shots in the art district’s Projects – North warehouse.  

Here, behind six different themed liquor stations, bartenders from Fort Lauderdale and Miami restaurants paired up to blend two different versions of the same cocktail. The room, packed with 350 drinkers, was bathed in hazy purple lighting, and music from Blondie, Prince and Michael Jackson and others played from a DJ booth that resembled a boombox.

The bars contributing cocktail recipes included Stache, Apothecary 330, YOLO and the Zombie Ice food truck in Fort Lauderdale; C.W.S. Bar + Kitchen and Tiki ‘Ono in Lake Worth;  Finka Table and Tap, Pawn Broker and Lilt Lounge in Miami; Commonwealth and Repour in Miami Beach; and the Local Craft Food and Drink in Coral Gables.

Billed by organizer Gio Gutierrez as a “cocktail time machine,” the gathering featured pop-culture decorations from the past 100 years: 1940s-style USO posters; plastic palm trees; a Rubik’s cube that doubled as a table; brass chandeliers; and a gleaming disco ball that hovered over a ‘70s- and ‘80s-themed bar, which offered a cocktail called Brass Monkey (Oak and Cane rum, vodka, orange juice reduction, tiki bitters).

“To me, all of these cocktails from other eras are like an education, even though most people will probably forget by the morning,” says Gutierrez, by day a food photographer and executive producer of the Miami web series Chat Chow TV. “Still, if you remember just one drink, it’s great.”

At the Stache drinking station, which evoked a 1950s diner with a red-and-black checkerboard backsplash, bar owner Brian Freed was busy serving applewood-smoked old fashioneds, garnished with cinnamon and dried apple chips.

“It’s the ‘50s, and we’re the Fonz meets Fort Lauderdale,” Freed says as applewood smoke gushed from a metal nozzle over a round of cocktails. 

Drink Fort Lauderdale was the fifth of seven Taste Fort Lauderdale dinners and tastings across Broward County, each meant to goose the area’s dining and nightlife scene. The remaining two events sold out earlier this week: the Saturday, Feb. 25 North Carolina cuisine-themed dinner at Burlock Coast in Fort Lauderdale and the Sunday, Feb. 26 Bloody Mary Brunch with Neil Patrick Harris at the Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale

The festival, sponsored by Food Network and Cooking Channel, runs through Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Miami Beach. For the full schedule, go to Sobefest.com.

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