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The 2011 Cold River Bartenders Bash turned out to be one hell of a night. The event, organized by Maine distilleries, to showcase their Cold River Vodka, Cold River Blueberry Vodka and Cold River Gin, was a huge success. On February 28th over 500 people crammed into Portland’s Ocean Gateway to vote on the best cocktail from 20 local bartenders. For over three hours people sampled the twenty cocktails, paired with light hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants.

Carly Lowell and Dana Robicheaw of Clementine Restaurant

Carly Lowell and Dana Robicheaw of Clementine Restaurant

I was there to cheer on Carly Lowell, from Clementine Restaurant, and her “Cold River Shimmer” Cocktail. Carly had some intense competition on her hands. There were only two cocktails that I would not drink ever again. The other 18 cocktails were delectable and some of the best I have ever had. My top three from the event were Roxanne Dragon of Hugo’s and her “Gin Ginger Fizz”, Leah Chamberlain of Old Port Sea Grill and her “Cucumber Martini” and of course Carly and her “Cold River Shimmer”. I would be content drinking those three cocktails for a long time!

Dorothy Baxley of Gritty's

Dorothy Baxley of Gritty's

Also worth mentioning were Dorothy Baxley from Gritty’s and Eddie Costales of Havana South. Both Dorothy and Eddie created drinks that were out of my comfort zone and challenged my perception of what a cocktail should be.

Dorothy created the tastiest desert drink called “The Needham Martini”. I am not a fan of overly sweet or creamy drinks, especially if they are labeled martinis. A true martini to me is a wondrous mix of top quality gin and sprinkling of French vermouth, but enough with the snobbery. “The Needham Martini” was delectable creation that lived up to its namesake the “Needham” a potato candy dipped in chocolate.

Eddie created “The Scorned Woman” a spicy drink that fit its name. The cocktail is a combination of habañero, jalapeño, and serrano chili peppers, and passion fruit purée. The drink tasted like what I imagine the fury and smack of a scorned woman would taste/feel like. A drink that was certainly worth trying but not something I could drink more than once.

The top honors of the night went to Leah Chamberlain and her “Cucumber Martini”. Second place went to Roxanne Dragon and her “Gin Ginger Fizz” and 50 Local’s James Ferguson came in third with his “The Local Greyhound” cocktail. Carly and my beloved “Shimmer” did not place but two of my three favorites made it to the top.

All of the drinks featured were intriguing and memorable. I loved the wide range of bartenders but twenty seemed like a large playing field. Last year there were fifteen bartenders and I think that is a better number.  The drinks are small but even twenty small drinks can get to you quickly! (The rest of my night can attest to that. Ask me about the elevator incident sometime!) My two major complaints were the lack of enough food and the overly loud band. The advertisement for the event bragged about heavy hors d’oeuvres. This statement was far from the truth. The food table was constantly wiped clean. There was simply not enough food for everyone there. With twenty different bartenders it would have been nice to have enough food to balance out the cocktails. The band, while good, was too loud. It was near impossible to hear the bartenders describe their drinks or talk to the person next to you. There were so many people at the event that it was noisy to begin with, the addition of a band made it just too loud.

Despite a few glitches, the 2011 Cold River Bartender’s Bash was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I’m looking forward to next year’s

Megan Schroeter of East Ender

Megan Schroeter of East Ender

Drink recipes from my five favorite bartender’s:

“Gin Ginger Fizz” created by Roxanne Dragon from Hugo’s

1½ oz. Cold River Gin, ½ oz. ginger cardamom simple syrup, ½ tsp. ginger juice, ½ oz. fresh lime juice, club soda

Combine ingredients and top with club soda.

“Cucumber Martini” created by Leah Chamberlain from Old Port Sea Grill

1½ oz. Cold River Gin, muddled mint, 1 oz. cucumber simple syrup, splash fresh lime juice, sparkling sake float.

“The Cold River Shimmer” created by Carly Lowell from Clementine Restaurant

2½ oz. Cold River Gin, 1 oz. elderflower syrup, 3 oz. Prosecco

Shake and strain gin & syrup, top with Prosecco, garnish with candied ginger.

“The Needham Martini” created by Dorothy Baxley from Gritty’s

2 oz. Cold River Vodka, 1 oz. coconut cream, 1 squeeze chocolate syrup

Topped with chocolate and coconut shavings. Shaken over ice and strained straight up.

“The Scorned Woman” created by Eddie Costales from Havana South

1½ oz. Cold River Vodka infused with habañero, jalapeño and Serrano chili peppers, 1½ oz. passion fruit puree, ¼ oz. fresh squeezed orange juice, 1 dash Tabasco hot sauce.

Shaken with ice and served straight up, garnished with a Thai chili.