Martini Mix-Off: The Finals 

America would like to take credit for spreading democracy, compassionate conservatism and freedom, but with those we'd also have to accept obesity, over-indulgence and arrogance. Only a few cultural things originated in America. And, along with jazz, blues, baseball and burgers, cocktails are distinctly an American invention.

Don't believe me? Try an experiment. While traveling abroad, perhaps in Paris, try to order a martini. Most likely you will get a glass of Martini & Rossi vermouth on the rocks. I ordered a martini in Singapore once and the DJ played Dean Martin. Unless you enter an establishment that caters to the American tourist, or you happen to come across an ex-pat working a bar in Amsterdam, you will not get a proper martini. Even in England, home of James Bond, you would be hard pressed to get a properly made American martini. I've tried. You are better off bringing a jar of olives with you and purchasing the ingredients yourself. You might as well bring along a shaker. You could have trouble finding one of those, too.

The reason I expound on the failures of European martinis is that here in Boise, this fifth anniversary of the Martini Mix Off is quite an achievement. The quality of the martinis gets better each year and the competition is fierce. I have sought out other competitions, and I haven't found any that rise to this level of extravagance and style. And it's not too late to enjoy it.

The preliminaries are finished, but the judges will gather one more time at Gusto's Jazz Club (509 Main St.) on Wed., May 28, for the finals judging party. (The Awards Gala is Fri., June 6, at the Mode building.) Judging begins at 7 p.m. and the judges will be presented with the top three martinis in each category. There'll be live jazz by the New Quintet and $5 Absolut martinis all night.

Through the month of June, you can sample all the martinis in the competition. Tickets are $50, which includes a coupon for one martini at every bar and a ticket to the final gala. Tickets are available at all participating bars and at Cheers in downtown Boise.

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