Martini Mix-Off Party 

The last martinis have been shaken, stirred and sipped, and the judges have allocated the awards. The judging was challenging with such a variety in each of the divisions this year. The classic, savory and sweet categories made for some tough drinking, but represented a variety of bars in which no one dominated despite the fear that the return of Chandlers' Pat Carden to the competition might skew results in his favor. From the following finalists, the top martini will be awarded this Friday night at the Mode Building downtown.

In the classic category, the Vesper Deconstructed (Pat Carden, Chandlers) represented the classic Bond martini with a lemon twist. Pair's Jen Koble served up the Cocytus, a tingly lemony strong kick in the pants chilled by dry ice. The garnish on the Cocytus was perhaps the most creative I've seen in all the years of competition. Bittercreek Alehouse's Johnny Abens went old-old school with the Martinez. Made with Plymouth Gin, Antica, a dash of orange bitters and garnished with a fat orange twist, it was a taste of the 1800s and the birth of the martini. All three were delicious and you should definitely use your ticket coupons through the month of June to try at least one of them.

In the savory category, we had four finalists. Nick Sparks from Chandlers stirred up the Hef-Tini, a vodka-based orange-flavored martini with a hint of hops. It was complex to the taste but definitely fell within that loose definition of what a savory drink might hope to be. Mark Allen at Red Feather made the closest thing to a Manhattan with his Penicillin Martini. I really liked the "smacked" mint garnish. Tablerock's Sarah Proctor gave us a Tequila-flavored martini called the Royale and Bardenay's Sean Early served up the Vitamin V, the fruitiest concoction in this category.

The three cocktails in the sweet division differed vastly from each other. The creamy, frothy Lovelocker from Red Feather's Mark Allen created visions of the Taj Majal for me. Pair's Jen Kobel had a second martini in the finals as well, with the Fiery Francesca, a chocolaty drink with hints of chili pepper. And, what should be recognized as a huge accomplishment for a first-year bar, The Modern Hotel's Michael Bowers served up the Morro de Saudade, an extremely complex sweet drink made with Dalmore 12-year-old Scotch, port, balsamic vinegar and fresh strawberries.

We won't find out who won until the awards gala on June 6 at the Mode building. Tickets are $50, which includes a coupon for one martini at every participating bar through the month of June and entry to the gala.

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