Check out this guide to Tampa Bay’s most spirited annual cocktail events. We’ve also mixed in some other boozy happenings scheduled throughout the year. That way, you’re not stuck drinking alone.
Cupcakes & Cocktails A signature soirée hosted in the Epicurean Hotel’s culinary classroom almost every month. As you’re treated to adult beverages from Élevage, Cloud 9 Confections chef-owner Beth Lukens shows you what it takes to pull off whoopie pies. Two types of pies are on the menu, but Lukens leaves the fillings and garnishes up to you. $65. Feb. 13, 7-9 p.m. 1207 S. Howard Ave., Tampa. 813-999-8700, epicureanhotel.com.
HighBall More than 15 local bartenders use whiskey, gin, rum and vodka to battle it out during CL’s next cocktail contest at NOVA 535. There are generous tastings poured throughout the night, and we’re not just saying that. $55-$80 in advance, $60-$85 at doors. Jan. 24, 7-10 p.m. 535 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N., St. Petersburg. highballtampabay.com.
Love Potion #9: Creating Herbal Tinctures & Bitters Join Emelia’s Apothecary of Dunedin for the lesson in cocktail bitters and tinctures — inspired by love (’tis the season and all). Expect a discussion and demonstration on how to make these alcohol-based solutions at home, plus samples. You leave with recipes, too. $20. Feb. 2, 5:30 p.m. 350 Main St. #A, Dunedin. 727-281-4497.
MAD for March: Cocktails and Dinner with Dick Vitale Leading up to the NCAA Basketball Tournament, sip and eat alongside the Hall of Fame sportscaster, who’s about to celebrate 40 years with ESPN. Net proceeds benefit pediatric cancer research. $150 individual, $350 couple. Feb. 19, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, The Rez Grill, Tampa.
Margarita Wars What can I say? Our staff loves to drink. But this CL effort is my personal favorite. You sample your way around marg stations throughout TPepin’s Hospitality Centre to ultimately determine which area bartender dreamed up the tastiest take on the classic. Also, there’s guacamole. July 26, 7-10 p.m. margaritawarstampabay.com.
Summer of Rum Festival The booze-soaked affair brings a healthy dose of rum drinks — everything from Rum Runners to frozen daiquiris to Cuba Libres — to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Labor Day weekend. 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa. summerofrumfest.com.
Taco & Margarita Crawl Hop from stop to stop in search of exclusive margarita and tequila specials, plus tacos. Participating bars include Thirsty First, MacDinton’s and Yard of Ale. $20-$40. April 6, noon-6 p.m. Various locations, St. Petersburg.
Tampa Bay Beer Week Yeah, yeah — we know this isn’t really cocktail-related. But it’s still one big celebration of the beverage that us locals sure do love: craft beer. March 2-10. Various locations, Tampa Bay. tampabaybeerweek.com.
Tampa Bay Bloody Mary Festival Part of Tampa Riverfest, the Tampa Garden Club soirée showcases unlimited helpings of Bloody Marys from restaurants across town. The “Golden Celery Award” goes to the cocktail you and your fellow imbibers enjoyed the most. $40-$80 in advance, $45-$85 at doors. April 28, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. 2629 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa. tampabloodymaryfest.com.
Tampa Bay Margarita Festival As if you needed another reason to down a ’rita. Basic and flavored interpretations of the traditional recipe collide with live entertainment at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park. May 25, noon-11 p.m. Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, Tampa. tampamargaritafest.com.
USBG Tampa Bay Repeal Day Conference Tampa Bay’s chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild has turned what was once a small gathering into a multiday conference. However, the grand gala at the historic Cuban Club is really where it’s at for cocktail nerds, because you toast to the end of Prohibition while dressed the part. December. 2010 Republica de Cuba, Tampa. repealdayparty.com.