Cane Spirits Festival In Tampa

Wine festivals and beer festivals are available in abundance all across the country. But if you want to try something different, jot down March 22-25 and Tampa, FL. That's when the International Cane Spirits Festival will take over Tampa's Ybor City area.

For those not quite sure what "cane spirits" means, think cachaca (pronounced kah-SAH-shah) from Brazil, guaro from Costa Rica and rum from many countries. Anything made by starting with cane sugar. Even P51 from Sazerac in New Orleans. That's shorthand for its full name, pirassununga.

The competition, part of a four-day festival of ethnic-oriented activities that include food, drink and music, is being run by Edward Hamilton, author of several books on rum and whose Web site, the Ministry of Rum, is key to the event. I'll be among the judges in the event, with tastings scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

Among some of the brands that may be new to consumers will be Beleza Pura Super Premium Cachaca, Guapiara & "Guap" Lemon Cachacas, and Australia's Inner Circle Rums.

Ybor City, which at one time was a separate entity until being annexed by Tampa, was a cigar-making center for several generations. Much of it has been restored and serves as a Hispanic cultural tourism area, replete with shops, restaurants and performance areas. The Florida Cuban Heritage Trail, a statewide route created to increase awareness of connections between Florida and Cuba, includes Ybor City.

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