Caribbean305 celebrates island tapas and cocktails

The cuisine of St. Maarten can be sampled at Caribbean305 on June 3.
The cuisine of St. Maarten can be sampled at Caribbean305 on June 3. Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association

Think conch, coconut and callaloo.

Those are just a few of the flavors that Caribbean chefs and bartenders may call upon as they whip up tapas and signature cocktails for Caribbean305, which makes its debut in Miami on June 3.

It's an offshoot of the June 2-6 Taste of the Caribbean, a culinary competition and cultural showcase, but in this case consumers, rather than judges, will be sampling the food and drink.

Sixteen teams from Caribbean nations and territories will each be offering two tapas selections and a signature drink showcasing the flavors of their islands as Caribbean music and dance swirls in the background. Haitian Chef Ron Duprat, who competed on season 6 of Bravo’s Top Chef program, and ITO, a Miami Beach Latin fusion gastropub, also will be taking part.

7 - Caribbean305
These small bites from the Turks and Caicos were on display at the Taste of the Caribbean competition. Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association

Ambassadors for the event, organized by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, are Chef Allen Susser, a James Beard Award winner known for his New Florida cooking, and Bahamian Marv Cunningham, the much-decorated barman at Aura nightclub at Atlantis Paradise Island resort and reigning Taste of the Caribbean bartender of the year.

Susser said South Florida is the perfect place for the celebration of Caribbean food. Not only do local chefs use the same spices and tropical fruits and vegetables found in the Caribbean, but “the diversity of the Caribbean is reflected here in Miami. South Florida is just another land mass that didn’t become a Caribbean island.”

Cunningham recently gave a preview of his bar-tending skills at a Jungle Island event announcing the debut of Caribbean305, which was formerly known as Taste of the Islands.

The barman said he has many signature cocktails, but he showcased two, sky juice and the tropical Cosmopolitan.

Marv Cunningham, two-time Caribbean bartender of the year, makes a tropical Cosmopolitan. Mimi Whitefield mwhitefield@MiamiHerald.com

Caribbean bartenders, he said, are more than just cocktail servers. “We’re psychiatrists, comedians, storytellers,” he said. “We want to give the people who come off the planes a reason to smile.”

There is, of course, a story behind sky juice — a mixture of gin, condensed milk, and coconut water with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. “If done correctly, you would use the more bracing juice of a young coconut mixed with the sweeter flavor of an older coconut,” said Cunningham.

The concoction dates from British Colonial times, and got its name because those who partook too copiously ended up flat on their backs and “the view was the sky,” said Cunningham.

The culinary celebration will be held from 8-11 p.m. Saturday, June 3, at Jungle Island. The $95 general admission entitles those 21 years and older to unlimited tapas and cocktail samplings. VIP admission is $140 and starts with a 7 p.m. reception and access to the VIP lounge with exclusive food and bar offerings. Tickets are available at Eventbrite or www.Caribbean305.com

Patrons can hop around the Caribbean, sampling food from Anguilla, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Martin, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, and the U.S. Virgin Islands at the event.

“We’ve got to let the world know that the Caribbean islands are all different. They have their unique architecture, music, cultures, heritage — and food,” said Frank Comito, chief executive and director general of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Assn.

Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi