Local bartenders to compete for best cocktail


Nolan Hart, from Michael's uptown Cafe, preparing the drink called "Over the River and Through the Woods" during Mix-Off: Bloomington’s Ultimate Bartender Challenge on Oct. 17, 2014, hosted by Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Tiantian Zhang and Tiantian Zhang

If this year’s Mix-Off: Bloomington’s Ultimate Bartender Showdown is anything like last year’s, it could bring some heat.

“Well, let’s see, we tried to burn the building down last year when one of the bartenders smoked some bourbon on stage,” said Danielle McClelland, executive director of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. “We barely averted the smoke alarms going off.”

This is the third year for the event, a competition among three local bartenders to mix the best cocktail. Funds from ticket sales go the the Buskirk-Chumley to ensure diverse programming, according to a press release.

The winner’s cocktail becomes the Buskirk-Chumley’s signature cocktail for 2016.

General admission tickets, which are only available to those 21 or older and cost $20, provide audience members with appetizers from One World Catering, four tastings of the batch cocktails made by the competitors, a chance to vote for the best batch cocktail and access to the stage show.

An additional Speakeasy ticket allows for three samplings of signature cocktail submissions by the competitors. Those not yet 21 may pay $10 for a Mocktail ticket, which allows for entry into the event and access to food and non-alcoholic drinks.

McClelland said the last two Mix-Offs have been very successful and she is most looking forward to seeing competitor Emmie O’Connor, a bartender at Malibu Grill in Bloomington. O’Connor also competed in the event’s first year. The other competitors are Nick Matio of C3 Bloomington and Andrew Wind of the Uptown Cafe.

Judging is based on the preparation of three cocktails: batch cocktails, which are served to all event attendees; signature cocktails, which are served to the judges and Speakeasy ticket holders; and the challenge cocktails, which are revealed to the bartenders during the event.

The judges were chosen by their expertise and experience with food and spirits and their access to media and publicity, McClelland said.

Two of the judges, Lynae Sowinski and Sarah Murrell, have positions at media outlets. Sowinski is the editorial director of “Limestone Post Magazine,” and Murrell is the food editor of “NUVO Newsweekly.” The third judge, Alan Simmerman, is the fresh coordinator at Bloomingfoods and a local chef.

“Simmerman is just a highly respected chef and afficionado of the cocktail,” 
McClelland said.

Entertainment for this year’s Mix-Off will be provided by Full Frontal Comedy, a long-form improv troupe from IU. McClelland said the group was chosen because they do very interesting improvisational work and comedy would make a great 
addition to the event.

Past entertainers include a variety of filmakers who competed in their own 
competition for the best short film about the history of a signature cocktail and an expert on the history of the art and speakeasies.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Buskirk-Chumley, and the Mix-Off is expected to end around 8 p.m.

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