The South Beach Wine & Food Festival may be all about wine and food, but there is something to be said about enjoying amazing mixed cocktails, especially when they’re served under the stars in one of the most beautiful and unique settings in South Florida, the Botanical Garden of Miami Beach. And so it was with the Garden To Glass event hosted by legendary chef Emeril Lagasse, along with the talented mixologists from Bar Lab and food provided by Chef Sam Gorenstein and South Beach’s My Ceviche.
We arrived around 9:30 (the event started at 10 p.m.), found parking nearby and took our places in line outside the front gates. Walking in we noticed tables stocked with liquors, napkins, etc. all set up on the grass close to the sidewalks that wind through the gardens. One table seemed to have more traffic than the others. As we made our way closer, we knew why: People were there to catch a glimpse of Emeril Lagasse sitting at a small tiki-style hut with a bartender at a station to the right serving up cocktails. It was a crowded scene with semi-buzzed patrons all jockeying for position at Emeril’s table. We managed to work our way in closer, meet Emeril, grab a cocktail and move on to the next station, leaving the chaos behind.
There were some cocktails we enjoyed, but considered them just average in terms of spirits, mixers, ingredients, etc. By that, I mean these were drinks you’d expect to find around town (and most likely, overpriced, depending on the establishment). On the other hand, Bar Lab’s cocktails were the hit of the night, as evidenced by the long lines and scores of return patrons (us included) at their bar. Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta, the mad scientists of mixology and founders of Bar Lab, have built up quite the following in South Florida. All of the six offerings were good but the Oaxacan Palate (blood orange, smoked ancho chili, coriander bitters w/Zignum Mezcal) was our favorite of the night.
One knock on this event was the lack of food. My Ceviche was a big part of the festivities, providing trays of various ceviche and light bites. They were hard to find and what samples they did offer were quickly snatched up by hungry, drunk patrons – oftentimes before the servers had a chance to move through the crowds. This was a disappointment, and we hope they’ll remedy this for future events.
All in all we enjoyed Garden To Glass. A little more organization is needed to make this one of the more memorable events during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, but still, there could be worse ways to spend a Friday evening sipping cocktails amongst a lush tropical garden under a starry Miami night.