TAMPA — Ryan Anderson was an easy choice when the call went out for bartenders to serve at a new rum festival at The Heights, a historic riverside complex just north of downtown.
He loves to meet people.
Anderson, a tall, lanky man with a quick smile, had a blast serving premium rum drinks in the Appleton Estates shack tucked in a corner of the event's main corridor on Saturday.
“Basically, I do parties like this for a living,” Anderson said. “I love it. I don't really call this work.”
Neither did other rum mixologists who served an enthusiastic crowd of 4,000 festival-goers at Saturday's inaugural Summer of Run Festival at a building long known as the Tampa Armature Works.
Attendees sampled more than a dozen rum-based drinks, swayed to music from four bands and munched on foods provided by five food trucks and two food vendors.
The seven-hour festival was a draw for rum aficionados and novices alike. They sipped on rum concoctions with exotic named such Kingston Breeze, Mobay Sunset, and Cruzan 9 and Ginger Beer. The rum was served frozen, on ice, with beer and with a variety of exotic ingredients.
Anderson, 30, of St. Petersburg, created a drink at the high-end rum booth called Miami Heat. He mixed Appleton Estate rum with mango juice, simple syrup, fresh lime juice, jalapenos and mint leaves.
“The key to this drink is to shake up the drink really good to break up the mint and jalapenos,” Anderson said as he aggressively shook the metal container.
Cienne Blackburn, a 31-year-old part-time bartender from Palm Harbor, was one of the bartenders staffing the Naked Turtle Rum shack a few feet away.
She mixed a drink called Naked on the Beach, a blend of Naked Turtle Rum, peach schnapps, pineapple juice and cranberry juice.
“The secret to making a good one is having equal parts of cranberry juice and pineapple juice and a splash of peach schnapps,” Blackburn said.
Activity was just as brisk on Cruzan Rum shack, one of the booths on the grounds of the Armature Works building.
Brianna Strum mixed a blend of Cruzan 9 and ginger beer on the rocks. The spice rum gives the drink its kick, said Strum, 27 of St. Petersburg.
Cristina Martin, owner of uDream Events, hired 60 bartenders to work the event. It is part-time work for most of the servers.
Martin, a co-creator of Rum Fest, staffs 10 full-time bartenders and contracts work to another 100 mixologists to work events such as the Summer of Rum, she said.
“They are happy (people),” Martin said of the bartenders . “They make our guests happy. There is nothing better than great customer service.”
Martin, along with business partners Ferdian Jap and Monica Varner of Big City Events, are in the business of making people happy, they said.
“We want to be the event that simulates and activates the downtown area,” Jap said.
They chose the red-brick Tampa Armature Works because of its historic presence in Tampa Heights, where city leaders hope to launch an urban renaissance.
Blackburn, Anderson and Strum said they were thrilled to be a part of an event they hope will become a Tampa tradition.