DOWNTOWN TAMPA — The sweet drink of the tropics will be celebrated Saturday with the first Summer of Rum Fest.
The event, open to the public, will be at The Heights Waterfront, 1410 N. Ola Ave. Featured will be more than 20 different rum drinks, including mojitos and daiquiris, as well as music and food trucks.
“Rum pretty much goes with everything,” said Ferdian Jap, a co-owner of Big City Events, which is staging the first-time festival.
Rum is made from sugarcane juice or its byproducts and usually aged in oak barrels. Much of the word’s rum comes from the Caribbean.
“We have ordered 25,000 cups and 70 cases of rum, with 12 bottles each,” he said, adding organizers are expecting up to 3,500 attendees.
Light rums are most commonly used in mixed drinks, although some do call for darker rums.
This is the second time this year Big City Events has organized such an event. The same company sponsored the first Margarita Festival in May — an event that drew a sellout crowd of 5,500.
The crowd resulted in long lines for drinks, which required blending that could take up to four minutes per drink.
And while the handcrafted rum drinks also require special blending, Jap said lessons learned from the Margarita Festival helped institute a new system. For Rum Fest, bartenders in the background will prepare the drinks while others serve or take orders.
“We were so bummed out that we wished we could redo it with a new system,” Jap said, adding that they had planned to have the festival later in the year but wanted to go ahead now and try the plan.
“And there really was no festival going on now that we knew of,” he added.
They chose The Heights because it offers indoor space inside the historic Tampa Armature Works Building, also known as the “Trolley Barn.” It will be divided into multiple “Rum Zones,” where drink stations will appear to be “shacks” of the Caribbean islands.
The lawn will be used for entertainment with The Land Sharks, who have appeared with Jimmy Buffett, as the featured group.