Of the four theme parks at the Walt Disney World resort, Epcot is the one that offers a range of culinary and cultural experiences beyond what you expect to enjoy in a theme park. Throughout the year, Epcot plays host to four distinct festivals: The year kicks off with the International Festival of the Arts, followed by the International Flower and Garden Festival, the International Food and Wine Festival, and culminating with the Festival of the Holidays in a barrage of jungle bells and Christmas trees.
As we step into the new year, Epcot kicks off the Festival of the Arts. This month-long celebration is a tribute to imagination and creativity, showcasing an array of artists who create, display, sell, sign, and share their work. Amidst these artistic displays, the park hosts 15 festival kitchens, each representing different countries and art styles, offering both perennial favorites and new culinary delights.
This year, we focused on the latest cocktail additions to the festival's already vibrant mix. To uncover these new beverages, we meticulously compared this year's menus with those from the previous year. Our exploration led us to sample ten distinctive drinks during the festival's opening when we were hosted by Disney. Ranking these, we prioritize flavor as a primary criterion, but we also take into account each drink's presentation and uniqueness. This way, you know which drinks to enjoy as you drink around the world at Epcot, and you don't even need to make a dining reservation to enjoy them
Frozen Scotch Cocktail
At Gourmet Landscapes, close to the Canada Pavilion, there's an exciting update to this year's menu, which is different from previous years. The popular Rusty Nail Cocktail, previously known for its bourbon flavor, has been transformed into the Frozen Scotch Cocktail for the 2024 festival, priced at $15.50. This new drink combines scotch with a mysterious herbal tea to create a frozen concoction, topped with a unique garnish -- a chocolate nail.
If you've enjoyed this one in the past, note that the chocolate nail remains, and it isn't just for show. It's coated in a shimmery substance that gives it a rusty appearance. When stirred into the drink, it releases a subtle glitter, enhancing both the look and taste of the cocktail with a touch of chocolate. The blend of herbal tea and scotch delivers a distinctive and strong taste. There are notes of apple, hinting it might be an apple-infused herbal tea. This cocktail is served from a slushie machine, which means it's fully mixed and perfectly chilled for a consistent experience.
However, the strength of the drink is a notable drawback. It's quite potent, which might be too much for some, overshadowing the delicate balance of flavors. The milk chocolate nail adds a comforting touch but doesn't completely soften the scotch's overpowering strength, certainly making this our least favorite drink.
Smokey Banana Bliss Margarita
The Smokey Banana Bliss Margarita, available for $15.50, is a unique blend featuring Ten to One Rum, Ilegal Mezcal Joven, banana purée, and a splash of lime juice. Known for its distinctive offerings, the Mexico festival kitchen at El Artista Hambriento showcases this drink as one of its two new items this season. It stands out with its uncommon combination of mezcal and banana purée.
Despite its name, the smokiness in this margarita is quite subtle. The banana flavor is also understated, adding a mild note rather than dominating the drink. To achieve the best flavor balance, a bit of stirring is recommended, especially after letting the ice melt slightly. This is particularly relevant since the drinks are sometimes prepared in batches to serve guests more efficiently.
The margarita is garnished with a large leaf, enhancing its tropical appeal. The addition of rum to the traditional margarita ingredients further complements this theme, alongside the banana element. However, the overall flavor profile of the Smokey Banana Bliss Margarita is somewhat subdued, bordering on bland. Interestingly, another margarita at the booth, the Rubí Delicioso Margarita, offers a more pronounced smoky flavor, which we found more appealing. While the Smokey Banana Bliss Margarita is innovative, it didn't meet our expectations.
Realism Roseberry Cold Brew With Bailey's
At Joffrey's between Canada and the United Kingdom, you'll find a Realism Roseberry Cold Brew. With the recommended spirit, Bailey's, it's priced at $14.99 and is a blend featuring Monin's Strawberry Rose Syrup, Bailey's, cold brew, and milk, all topped with whipped cream and bright red sprinkles. When we ordered this drink, the barista ringing us up initially seemed unaware of its existence despite prominent advertising on the cart. However, patience paid off as they quickly adapted and prepared the drink.
Interestingly, like all Joffrey's spirited beverages, this one is prepared in a smaller container compared to other Joffrey's drinks. Despite this, the drink had a fun mix of fruit, coffee, and Baileys. The Strawberry Rose Syrup, far from being overpowering, adds a light taste with a pleasant fruitiness.
The sprinkles atop the whipped cream worked well as a nod to the festival's theming, and the interesting flavor certainly brought in that creative element. We found that the coffee's robust flavor pairs well with the Bailey's, but we definitely still tasted it. We were able to taste all the elements of the drink rather than enjoying a flavor of all parts pulled together. Visually, the drink is light brown, almost tan, and it seemed ours had a little more cream than typical. You could certainly ask for less milk if you wanted. All told this was a quality coffee drink, but we preferred the pistachio one much more.
Rubí Delicioso Margarita
The Rubí Delicioso Margarita is another offering from El Artista Hambriento. It's a unique blend priced at $16.50, combining tequila, blackcurrant liqueur, citrus, mint, spicy agave, and beet juice. This price point is on the higher side, even for a festival offering, and it ended up being the most expensive drink we sampled.
At first sip, we were surprised to see that it presented an unexpected smokiness, a flavor we anticipated more from the Smokey Banana Bliss Margarita, given that the smoke was explicitly called out. While beet juice typically brings a heavy, earthy tone, its flavoring is far quieter than we expected. Instead, the citrus and mint play a more pivotal role, balancing the flavors and working with the earthiness of beets.
Visually striking, the margarita boasts a bright red color and is served in a stemless wine glass, reminiscent of how we enjoy a red sangria. Around the rim, we would have liked to have seen some kind of a sweet or salty rim, but there wasn't one here. With its many ingredients and flavors, we found this to be one of the more memorable drinks on offer. Although we were happy that those beets weren't center stage, the drink's flavor still didn't quite surpass other drinks we tried, even if it was unique and memorable. That said, if you're wanting to try a margarita that will feel different from the norm, this is a great choice.
Brushstroke Berry Bliss With Grey Goose
The Brushstroke Berry Bliss is a cleverly alliterative and fruity take on the classic Arnold Palmer over at the Showcase Plaza Joffrey's location. This refreshing mixed drink blends frozen lemon, lemonade, iced tea, and raspberry syrup. The spiked version of this one features Grey Goose Vodka for $14.99 and is great for lovers of lemon and tea who want a fruity flavor, too.
One of the great conveniences at Joffrey's locations throughout Epcot is the early start the locations offer for festival dining. Open right from the park's opening, Joffrey's coffee and tea booths are some of the best spots for coffee in Disney because these stops provide an option for early birds, serving up tempting offerings well before the festival food booths begin at roughly 11 a.m.
We found that the Brushstroke Berry Bliss has a pleasant balance in its ingredients with a sweet and fruity profile that feels like a balance between tea, fruit, and lemonade. On our visit, we were told that the drink wouldn't have a fresh lemon slice as a garnish since it wasn't available yet, but we didn't miss it. Unfortunately, each time we visited a Joffrey's cart on this particular day, we noticed the staff did not have the necessary ingredients or recipes needed to prepare the drink at the beginning of the festival. This is understandable on the first day of a festival, and patience certainly goes a long way in these situations.
Elderflower Sparkling Cocktail
The Sparkling Elderflower Cocktail at L'Arte di Mangiare, located outside the Italy Pavilion at Epcot's festivals, is an intriguing exception to the often-criticized reputation of the food booths in this area. Priced at $15, it drew us in with its elegant look. This cocktail, one of the two new elderflower offerings at the festival, resonates with our love for elderflower liqueur. It's a mix of mint-infused elderflower liqueur, Prosecco, and sparkling blood orange juice, giving it a delicate orange tint.
The integration of the blood orange juice is a particularly delightful touch, offering a vivid citrus burst that perfectly complements the dryness of the Prosecco. The elderflower liqueur adds a distinctively charming flavor, enhancing the overall taste of the cocktail. What impressed us was the exceptional balance achieved in this cocktail, indicating that the Italy food booth is making significant improvements, especially in its cocktail offerings. The presentation of the drink in a stemmed fluted glass adds to the elegance and enjoyment, contributing to the overall experience as we explore the World Showcase. Despite the general reservations about the Italy booth, this Sparkling Elderflower Cocktail stands out as a testament to its evolving quality, offering a delicious choice that shouldn't be overlooked.
Pistachio Palette Cold Brew With Bailey's
Our plan to start our day at Walt Disney World with the Pistachio Palette Cold Brew from Joffrey's, located just outside of Connections in the World Discovery area of the park, came with a slight hiccup. Priced at $14.99, the booth was missing some key ingredients during our early visit, so we weren't able to enjoy this one early on, but on our return visit later, the booth was fully operational, and the wait proved worthwhile.
The cocktail, a delightful blend, featured shaken Jamaican cold brew, pistachio syrup, milk, neon green sprinkles, and a discreet hint of Bailey's. The pistachio syrup particularly stood out, enhancing the rich flavor of the cold brew. While Starbucks is known for its pistachio latte during the winter season, this drink arguably outshone it, and we preferred this one. The Baileys subtly mixed with the other ingredients, results in a smooth and pleasurable experience.
Visually, the cocktail impressed with its bright green sprinkles, which reflected the pistachio theme and added an artistic flair befitting the festival's ambiance. This Pistachio Palette Cold Brew turned out to be a delightful and well-balanced concoction, demonstrating that sometimes a little patience can lead to a rewarding experience.
Elderflower Liqueur Cocktail
The Elderflower Liqueur Cocktail at L'Art de la Cuisine Française, priced at $13.25, elegantly combines St. Germain liqueur, sparkling wine, and a touch of mint. It shares some similarities with the elderflower cocktail offered in Italy but with its distinct charm.
This cocktail marries the sweet wine with the elderflower liqueur, creating a delightful fusion. Observing the cast member skillfully add the sparkling wine, pour in the St. Germain liqueur, and garnish with a mint leaf was part of the allure. Initially, the mint served merely as a garnish. However, to enhance the experience, we removed the mint leaf, shook it to release its aroma, and then reintroduced it to the drink. This subtle manipulation allowed a more pronounced mint scent to emerge as we sipped.
While the balance of flavors in the cocktail was pleasing, we felt that a slightly more generous inclusion of St. Germain could have further elevated the drink, distinguishing it from a standard sparkling wine. Interestingly, as the mint leaf lingered in the drink, it gradually infused more of its essence, subtly changing the flavor profile over time. Like its counterpart, this elderflower cocktail was also served in a stemmed fluted wine glass, a sophisticated departure from the usual plastic cup, adding to the overall enjoyment and aesthetic of the drink.
Pastel Pineberry Frost With Grey Goose
An interesting aspect of Joffrey's booths throughout Epcot is that the staff here crafts the drinks from their ingredients, just like you get at other coffee shops. Unlike other drinks throughout the festival, which are often premade and poured from a spigot, the drinks at Joffrey's are handcrafted. This has its benefits. After all, you're going to spend less waiting time for premade drinks, and there's a special charm in savoring a drink freshly made by Joffrey's.
When we reached this Joffrey's booth in the American Adventure, later in the day and around lunchtime, everything seemed well-prepared, and to our delight, they even had fresh lemons. This drink, the Pastel Pineberry Frost with Grey Goose for $14.99, was quite the fruity treat. The tartness from the lemon was noticeable, but what impressed us was how well the vodka was hidden. It's a perfect cocktail for those who prefer their drinks with less of an alcoholic taste.
For those unfamiliar, pineberry is essentially a strawberry but pale pink or white in appearance and tastes like pineapple. The drink itself was a lovely representation of this, with its pink and white mix, a visual and flavorful nod to the pineberry. Being near the America Gardens Theatre, this is the perfect drink to enjoy as you learn how to draw a Disney character during the Animation Academy hosted throughout the day. You'll find designated times for the day posted outside the theatre.
Deconstructed Strawberry Mint Julep With Bourbon
The Deconstructed Dish booth not far from Test Track excels in serving food and drinks in unexpected and beautiful ways, allowing us to explore and discover the different parts of a drink alone as well as together. Take the Strawberry Mint Julep with Bourbon for $12, for instance. This drink surprised us the most with its presentation: bourbon floating atop a strawberry jam-like mixture in a pipette, making it a standout for its creative plating.
Interestingly, we initially faced a challenge when we attempted to infuse the strawberry flavor using the pipette. The strawberry seemed to have frozen slightly due to the icy nature of the drink. A word of advice: Don't delay in piping in your strawberry like we did, and be sure to give it a good stir right away.
Once we successfully mixed everything, the drink revealed a fascinating blend of flavors, reminiscent of a strawberry-infused mint julep but with a distinct bourbon twist. We appreciated its consistency and the fact that it was served frozen, even if that initially presented a slight hurdle. There's something irresistibly appealing about a drink that tastes great and boasts an intriguing presentation.
Of all the drinks we sampled at the festival, this one stood out for its visual and interactive appeal. The pipette doubles as a functional stirrer and adds to the overall experience. The drink is sweet and smooth, offering a perfectly delightful sip once fully combined.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.