By Eric Heinz

The time of year is upon us when the most complex concoctions of fruit juice and alcohol are blended in real time. Yes, the San Clemente Mixology Competition will return on March 23, from 3-6 p.m., at Pierside Kitchen + Bar, located at 610 Avenida Victoria in San Clemente. The event is for ages 21 and up.

Having home-field advantage this year is Pierside’s Nate Duffy, who competed last year but did not win in any of the categories.

“There’s a couple different ways to look at how to make cocktails, but basically you want to accentuate the main spirit that you’re using, whether it’s gin, whiskey or vodka,” Duffy said. “You want to find flavors that will match up with that properly. It can get more extensive when you get into different alcohols, but basically it’s all about the pairing.”

Nate Duffy, a bartender at Pierside Kitchen + Bar in San Clemente, demonstrations the construction of one of his regular cocktails. The San Clemente Mixology Competition is moving to Pierside this year, which will take place 3-6 p.m. on March 23. Photo: Eric Heinz
Nate Duffy, a bartender at Pierside Kitchen + Bar in San Clemente, demonstrations the construction of one of his regular cocktails. The San Clemente Mixology Competition is moving to Pierside this year, which will take place from 3-6 p.m. on March 23. Photo: Eric Heinz

Duffy said he has been bartending for six years while he trying to finance his culinary studies. He said he has learned a lot about mixology from working with food and flavor combinations in the kitchen. But the craft of mixology has taken off and risen in popularity over the last decade.

“Everybody is trying to make something better for cheaper and still make it delicious,” Duffy said. “I think it’s just people are tired of the same thing over and over, and there are bartenders who want to do something different from every other restaurant in their town.”

The drink that wins for best cocktail will be served on participating menus throughout the city and be known informally as the “drink of San Clemente.” This year’s contest participants include:

  1. Big Helyn’s South Side Saloon

Mixologist: Stefanina Stephens

Drink: Ye Scallywag

  1. Ole’s Tavern

Mixologist: Yvonne Kimball

Drink: SC Bubble

  1. The Shwack Cantina

Mixologist: Alyssa Montoys

Drink Name: Pisco Del Sol

  1. BeachFire Bar & Grill

Mixologist: Tim McAuley

Drink: Peach Julep

  1. Cafe Mimosa

Mixologist: Ian Rice

Drink: The Monte Carlo

  1. Red Fox Lounge

Mixologist: Sally Daniel

Drink:  San Clemente Sunshine

  1. Antoine’s Cafe

Mixologist: Vincent Price

Drink: Napoleon

  1. Taka-O Japanese Restaurant

Mixologist: Raven Everly

Drink: O.C. Tini

  1. Inka Mama’s Peruvian Cuisine

Mixologist:   Kevin Standley and Whitney Lastra

Drink: Sandia Mía

  1. Pierside Kitchen + Bar

Mixologist: Nate Duffy

Drink: Libre Old Fashion

  1. H.H. Cotton’s

Mixologist: Elena Noel

Drink Name: Cottons’ Blossom

The San Clemente Chamber of Commerce is coordinating the event, and officials said tickets are still available, but they are selling fast. Call 949.492.1131 for more information or visit www.scchamber.org. If you can’t attend this year’s competition, visit the various restaurants around San Clemente to try the entries for yourself.

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