Wednesday's mixologist competition hosted by the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival at Michael Mitchell Gallery crowned a winner: The Belmont's Mick Matricciano, whose Flowerhorn Sour had a little bit of luck and a lot of tastiness. Made with Milagro Tequila, which was very much a strong flavor swirling among the citrusy lime and pomelo juices, the drink won over the esteemed judges and will be featured at the opening night party of the wine and food festival in March.
Matricciano's drink was up against some stiff competition from Brent Sweatman of Biggie's Gastropub, Jon Calo of Cocktail Club, and Evan Powell of Fish. Party-goers got generous samples of each drink, along with nibbles from Kevin Johnson's new Upper King Street restaurant, The Grocery. If there was a contest going on with the food, I'd have to vote for the charred onion dip and kettle chips. It's redneck football food on steroids, and I really love that. But the fried oyster with deviled egg sauce was a solid runner-up.
At the end of the night, renowned mixologist Charlotte Voisey of William Grant & Sons announced Matricciano the winner, chosen by a panel that included Angel Postell of the W+F Festival, Patrick Emerson of Maverick Southern Kitchens, Boris Van Dyke of Icebox, Brian Stanley of the Art Institute, and Jim Mason of William Grant & Sons. I was supposed to have been a judge, but I brain-farted and got there when the party started at 6, not when the judging started at 4:30. What a dope, because I totally missed out on making my opinion known (to be honest, I'd probably have voted for Evan Powell's Aviator drink, which was a pretty delicious concoction that wasn't so acidic). But hey, I lost my chance to have my opinion count, right?
Speaking of cocktail competitions, Joe Raya from the Gin Joint was in New York last Tuesday night to compete in the finals of the Esquire Manhattan competition. I stopped by his bar the same night, and his employees reported that he'd "unofficially" come in second place. The winner was a female bartender from New York, causing everyone to speculate how much the Esquire cover placement might have factored into the decision. Regardless of what happened, it's nice to see our cocktail culture getting lots of attention from the rest of the nation. These guys are good.