The Inaugural South Florida Tequila Festival (Photos)

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Santa Barbara, California has one. Phoenix, Arizona has one. And now South Florida, does too. What are we talking about? Tequila festivals, people.

This past weekend witnessed the launch of the first annual South Florida Tequila Festival, which kicked off on Saturday, November 1, at Fort Lauderdale's Bar Stache. The festival, which will return next year, is now an official part of the Florida Day of the Dead Celebration.

See also: Coppertop Brewing Company Coming to Boynton Beach

This year, Day of the Dead event producers and partners at 3J Hospitality had a big idea: expand the venue and programming and make the annual event a two-day celebration, and relocate the entire celebration to Riverwalk-Fort Lauderdale and the Revolution Live Entertainment Complex.

They also decided to add a tequila festival. Hosted by Bar Stache, and organized by 3J Hospitality, the South Florida Tequila festival is said to be the only event of its kind in the eastern United States, according to event founder and 3J Hospitality partner Brian Freed.

The festival serves as a supplement to the Day of the Dead celebrations, and is meant to educate the South Florida community on the history and importance of tequila in regards to Mexican culture, tradition, and arts.

Freed conceptualized and organized the festival in just three months, inviting more than 15 brands of tequila -- altogether offering some 50-plus selections for unlimited sampling -- to join the inaugural event.

Tequila brands included Don Julio, Avión, Blue Nectar, Partida, Roca Patrón, Casamigos, Espolón, and Herradura. Each were slinging samples of their blanco, reposado, and añejo variations, as well as a specialty cocktail made using their own tequila.

More than 200 people were in attendance, and participated in voting for the "people's choice" award for "best" tequila. A panel of judges were also responsible for selecting the best tequila at the event, as well as the best cocktail of the evening.

Six judges selected from the local community determined the "best" tequila of the evening. Third place went to the Maestro Dobel Diamond tequila; second place to Herradura Seleccion Suprema; and first place to El Tesoro blanco. The people's choice award was given to Herraduro Seleccion Suprema.

South Florida bartender Brijette De Berardinis, a mixologist for Miami-based Coastal Wine and Spirits, won the "best" cocktail of the evening for her pumpkin spice-inspired Old Fashioned creation using Don Julio tequila, which she represented during the festival.

"Like everything in its first year, this event is just a baby," said Freed, after announcing the winners. "And we're looking forward to watching this one grow."

Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.

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