Cheers to That

Cheers to That

South Beach Wine & Food Festival continues its expansion into Broward County with the inaugural DRINK Fort Lauderdale.

South-Beach-Wine-Food-Festival-cheers-to-that-Nila-Do-Simon-Fort-Lauderdale-Venice-Magazine
The South Beach Wine and Food Festival hits FATVillage this year with its inaugural DRINK Fort Lauderdale event, its first late-night event in Broward.
By Nila Do Simon

If someone told you 10 years ago that a dilapidated, industrial zone just north of Broward Boulevard and next to the railroad tracks would be a bustling arts district in a decades time, you might have scoffed at the notion. On top of that, if you were told that same area would one day host a glittering event for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, one of the nation’s premier culinary celebrations, you’d probably have doubled over with laughter.

Come February 24, that will exactly be the situation at the once-overlooked FATVillage neighborhood, which will host DRINK Fort Lauderdale, SOBEWFF’s first-ever late-night event in Broward County. Now a cultural hub with a hip millennial clientele, FATVillage has been the backdrop for monthly art walks, music festivals and indie bazaars, but never has it been associated with names such as The Food Network and Wine Spectator. Until now.

The idea behind the Fort Lauderdale event is simple: Give attendees an experiential culinary and cocktail night that can’t be emulated elsewhere. To do so, SOBEWFF creator Lee Brian Schrager enlisted the help of Giovanny Gutierrez, a social media influencer and the brains behind ChatChowTV, a popular video podcast dedicated to all things food. As a former Hollywood resident and the founder of the event series DRINK Miami, Gutierrez was the ideal choice to head up the SOBEWFF’s latest addition.

For DRINK Fort Lauderdale, Gutierrez and his team are focusing on taking guests through a cocktail time machine, starting with the early 1900s and leading up until today.

“We’re big cocktail nerds,” he says. “And we wanted people to get excited and learn about the evolution of cocktails as we take them through the decades at this event. For example, who knew that the Aviation was the main drink of the 1930s? Or that the ’70s had the Harvey Wallbanger? Or that the Cosmo, which was made popular on ‘Sex and the City’ in the 1990s, was created here in Miami?”

The event marks the 16-year-old festival’s continuing expansion into Broward County. Up until 2015, Miami Dade’s northern neighbors had to travel to South Beach or beyond to enjoy festival foods and libations. Then came last year’s formulation of the festival’s Taste Fort Lauderdale series, which included six events in Broward County, from intimate, celebrity-hosted dinners to 500-person fetes. This year adds DRINK Fort Lauderdale to the lineup, something that Schrager says the city and festival were both ripe for.

“I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, so it’s really special to me, and heading north to Fort Lauderdale really made sense,” he says.

And while the event’s name has the work “drink” in uppercase, both Schrager and Gutierrez emphasized that it’s not all about the cocktails at this event. The streets will be closed off to traffic to make way for food trucks and carts, curated by the popular social media personality Burger Beast. While most details are still under wraps, the DRINK Fort Lauderdale team plans to activate and incorporate the adjacent FATVillage galleries and stores into the event.

“We want to do something fun with this event and provide a cool experience instead of just saying, ‘Here’s a drink,’” Gutierrez says. “When you travel around and see cool things, you want to take those ideas back to your city, and that’s what we’re looking to do here.”

SOBEWFF AT A GLANCE:

Dates: February 22-26, 2017.

Taste Fort Lauderdale Series highlights: Seaside Eats hosted by celebrity chef Anne Burrell at the historic Bonnet House Museum & Gardens; DRINK Fort Lauderdale, taking over the popular FATVillage for one night; Bloody Mary Brunch with new hosts David Burtka & Neil Patrick Harris.

Benefiting: Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University

Originally appeared in the Winter 2016 Issue.