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Local bartenders to compete in United Way of Southington cocktail competition


General Manager Jay Brewer mixes a cocktail at 75 Center in Southington on Tuesday. The first annual Southington Cocktail Competition to benefit The United Way of Southington will be held at the Aqua Turf Club on Tuesday, May 30.

By Ciara Hooks, Record-Journal staff
May 10, 2023 06:17PM

SOUTHINGTON — The best bartenders in town will be taking over the Aqua Turf Club on Tuesday, May 30, to showcase cocktails created for the first annual Southington Cocktail Competition hosted by the United Way of Southington.

“We were trying to come up with a new annual fundraiser to be in the spring/summer months and we came up with the concept of a cocktail competition,” said Taylor Deegan, United Way of Southington board president. “We’re inviting Southington restaurants to send their best bartenders to showcase Cane Rock Rum cocktails.”

The cocktail throwdown will start at 6:30 p.m. and include demonstrations, samples, judging, voting and light bites created by the Aqua Turf.

“Each restaurant/bartender will be set up like a tasting,” Deegan said. “They are going to have their own booth and we have judges that will be going around to judge the cocktails on a whole tier system.”

The bartenders will have 3-5 minutes to make the cocktails in front of the judges and the judges will sample it right in front of them.

“They can use any sort of ingredients; the only restriction for them is they have to use Cane Rock Rum,” Deegan said. “They can make a Rum Manhattan to more rum style drinks like a Daiquiri, Pina Colada, or Rum Punch.”

James Brewer, the general manager at 75 Center, will most likely represent the restaurant in the competition “because that’s what always happens,” he joked. 

“But I'm not mad about it. I always enjoy going up and representing and I love to give a big, huge smile to everything,” he added.

Brewer and his team have been putting their minds together and collaborating on what they want to create.

“We’re going with more of a tropical theme, but something that also represents us as a company and as a whole restaurant,” Brewer said. “So it’s going to be fun and delicious but not extremely complex. We’re going to take a simple idea and make it the most fun and coolest thing we can possibly do.”

Brewer shared that there has been a lot of trial and error and taste testing.

“We’re still perfecting it so hopefully we can take home an award that day,” Brewer said.

The restaurants will have the opportunity to win four awards at the competition from platinum to bronze, based on the judges' scoring.

“Those attending can also watch the demonstrations, watch them being judged officially, talk to the bartenders about their cocktail and how they made it and try a one ounce sample,” Deegan said.

Attendees will get the opportunity to cast a People’s Choice vote for three additional awards: Best Tasting Cocktail, Best Presented Cocktail and Most Creative Cocktail. But you are only allowed to vote for each restaurant once.

“We’re going to have 15 different raffle prizes as well,” Deegan said. “All of these raffles are going to be gift cards from the restaurants and then some additional stuff like baskets of spirits and wines at home bartending kits.”

The competition also features bartenders from Anthony Jacks Wood Fired Grill; Blackstone Irish Pub; Craft Kitchen; Cadillac Ranch; CT Fable; Flair Restaurant & Bar; Groggy Frogg; Hop Haus Southington; LongHorn Steakhouse; Plan b Southington; Smokin’ with Chris; The Art of Yum; The Manhattan and Wood-n-Tap.

“The team and I went to the different restaurants in town and asked them if they wanted to be a part of it. We probably asked about 30 restaurants and these 15 were interested in supporting us,” Deegan said. All proceeds will benefit the United Way of Southington “but it's a win-win because we get to highlight all of the awesome restaurants that are here in town and have some of the bartenders use some cool creativity.”

The board members were discussing new fundraiser ideas that they haven’t seen before and a public, a non-industry cocktail competition seemed like a “really cool idea,” Deegan said.

“Golf tournaments are great but there are a lot of them. We've done different dinners and that kind of stuff, but we know there’s a lot of excitement around competitions and cocktails and a couple of Netflix series that came out recently, like Chopped, are very popular so that kind of concept really drew to us,” Deegan said.

Deegan shared that it has been great putting the event together. 

“As the president of the organization, I’m also the general manager at Worldwide Wines and Spirits, so we used my influence with Hartley & Parker LTD, and the supplier Pierre Ferrand (Maison Ferrand) to get them supporting and being able to donate the product so it’s less impact on the restaurant,” Deegan said.

United Way of Southington wanted to give the restaurants a way to get in front of people and highlight what they’re currently doing, any new menu items, any specials they’re running this summer etc.

“We asked some of the restaurants to feature the cocktail on their menu in their restaurant after the event to try to bring some people to their restaurant and they can highlight that they won the Best Tasting Cocktail or The Platinum Award etc. and then a certain percentage is going to be donated to United Way of Southington of those drinks ordered,” Deegan said. “So (it’s a) cool way after the fact to bring people to the restaurants.”

Brewer thinks the competition is honestly an amazing idea as a whole and they are very excited for it.

“We are really also excited to have a good summer and we’re going to launch as many cool drinks that we can including this one (used in the competition),” Brewer said.

The Aqua Turf Club is located at 556 Mulberry St. The event is 21+, ID required. To purchase tickets for $50 each visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/southington-cocktail-competition-tickets-615096679727

United Way of Southington can be found on their website at http://www.unitedwayofsouthington.org

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