We’ve been to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival a handful of times, but until our last trip we had never experienced any of the ticketed events. During our last visit, we knew we would only have two days total at the festival and while we did want to try something new we did not want to spend too much time or money given the short time we would have. We ultimately decided to choose the beverage seminar (over many other wonderful events) for two reasons: One was cost. At $17 per person, we felt the beverage seminar would be a good value considering how we were looking to spend our time and what would be included. (Plus when else is there a hard ticketed event at Walt Disney World for $17?)
The other reason was simply because we wanted to try something different. When we booked our reservation for the seminar, we were able to browse through the different alcoholic beverages that would be offered on the days of our visit. Most of the beverage seminars are done with wine, however there are a handful of other beer, whiskey, and a couple of other spirits scattered throughout the festival. While it is the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, we actually specifically chose an event that did not feature wine as we figured a wine tasting was something we would be able to do from home. In the end we decided to go with the last time slot of the day (5:00 pm) for what Disney had listed as a tequila seminar.
Ironically enough, Disney had misinterpreted the type of beverage that was being hosted and our seminar turned out not to be tequila at all. Although this does seem kind of short-sighted on Disney’s part in listing an incorrect beverage for a beverage seminar event, everyone seemed to laugh it off and it honestly made the experience all the more interesting. But before we get into what we actually ended up drinking, let’s get into some logistics!
With taxes and fees the entire experience cost us just about $38 for two. While reservations were made online in advance, and it was clear that the event was 21+ only, we still had our IDs checked at the event. All of the beverage seminars take place at the Festival Center, which is located in the old Wonders of Life Pavilion in Future World. Attending the 5:00 pm seminar worked out perfectly for us (especially as we were tasting hard alcohol) because we had already tasted our way around World Showcase— with a hard alcohol seminar I would hesitate to taste-test the different beverages on an empty stomach. Once we arrived at the Festival Center, we quickly stopped at the information desk near the entrance to pick up our tickets, and we were on our way!
The set-up of the seminar is actually just one of the areas in the Festival Center with the long tables that is really out in the open (though roped off so that non-ticketed guests cannot enter). While you do need a ticket to actually take part in the seminar, this does mean that you can easily stand in the general vicinity while a seminar is going on to check it out and see if it’s something you’re interested in doing. We didn’t do this during our visit, but we saw other guests who did and it sounded like at least some of them did end up making reservations for seminars later in their trips.
Each guest was seated at a place setting that included a sheet of paper and pencil for tasting notes, three shot glasses filled with samples, Blue Diamond Nut Thins (Blue Diamond was a sponsor for the festival this year), a piece of raw sugar cane (more on that in a bit), and a swag bag. Additional cups and pitchers of water were also spread across the table. Curious as to what we were actually drinking? As the guest speaker quickly pointed out the mix-up on the website, we learned that we would actually be sampling Cachaça. It’s okay, we weren’t sure we had heard of it before either…
The speaker for our seminar was a sales representative from Espirito XVI Cachaça, which as we quickly learned is not tequila at all but perhaps more similar to rum if anything. Cachaça is the national spirit of Brazil, and it is made from raw sugar cane (whereas rum is made from molasses). To demonstrate the difference between the two, the speaker showed us what a stem of raw sugar cane looked like and had us taste the samples of sugar cane that were at our place setting. It was interesting to see that many guests either loved or hated tasting the raw sugar cane, although even those who hated it (myself included) found this taste test helpful in understanding the process behind Cachaça. (Chaz ended up really enjoying the raw sugar cane– although it is oddly sweet yet bitter the texture is similar to celery… Now you know!)
Next we learned about three different kinds of Cachaça offered by Espirito XVI. The first was Classico, which ended up being my favorite. As the name suggests, this was the standard and seemingly most basic of the three however these features actually really allowed us to get a complete taste for what Cachaça is like. Despite its 80 proof characteristic it was decidedly smooth and had a crisp yet sweet taste. The next was the 94 proof Dourado, which is noted for being aged in barrels that use 28 different kinds of timber. This one was too strong for my tastes (at least to be drinking straight, but Chaz finished off my sample and would have enjoyed it on the rocks. Lastly was the 104 proof Cavaleiro, which is unique in the world of Cachaça for being aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels, which actually made this one unexpectedly smooth.
Mixed cocktails or additional shots beyond the initial samples are not part of the beverage seminars, but our speaker sort of off-set this by using a PowerPoint that featured ways you could use Cachaça to make different cocktails. Once we were finished learning about the process for making Cachaça and tasting our samples, the speaker stuck around for some questions and we opened our swag bags. Since this is our first seminar, I’m not sure if swag bags are always part of the deal but we thought ours were pretty cool. Ours came with mason jars that featured the company logo on one side and a drink recipe on the other, which we thought was a nice touch.
All in all the seminar probably lasted about 40 minutes, which was perfect for us not wanting to spend too much time with a ticketed event. While this may sound short for the type of event, we never felt rushed and the speaker would have stuck around for as long as guests kept asking questions. If you are looking to try out a ticketed event during the festival for the first time, we would highly recommend trying one of the beverage seminars. We really enjoyed learning about the beverage, especially as Cachaça was entirely new to us before the seminar. We also assume that for $17 the event more than paid for itself with the samples as three shots of hard alcohol in the park would easily cost more than $17 per person. You may not run into that sort of value at a wine seminar, but it’s still a low price point for an extra ticketed event that should be doable to work into your Food & Wine budget.
Have you experienced a beverage seminar at Epcot? Let us know which one and how you enjoyed it! We’re already making plans to make our way over to a cooking seminar at the next festival!