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By Eric Heinz
Each ingredient has to be carefully placed in each glass, and to do it with flair and poise distinguishes the best mixologists in San Clemente from the rest.
The San Clemente Chamber of Commerce will host its 14th Annual “San Clemente Mixologist Competition, a contest among area restaurant bartenders to see who has the best-tasting original drink,” according to the Chamber.
The master of ceremonies will be Chamber ambassador Ben Medina.
Bartenders concoct their favorite “homemade” drink, which will be judged by a select group of local dignitaries, at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, at H.H. Cotton’s American Bar & Grill, located at 201 Avenida Del Mar.
The winner’s specialty drink will then be adopted by participating restaurants as the official San Clemente drink.
The esteemed judges for the contest include Adabel Medina of CR&R Environmental Services, Nicky See of the Outlets at San Clemente, Jessica Conrad of Conrad Realtors, Inc., and Lt. David A. Lucas and Staff Sgt. David M. Reed of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines.
Chamber members are invited to attend and watch the bartenders as they mix their specialty drink and then present their beverage for judging. Ticket price for members to attend is $25 per person and $35 per person for prospective members.
Lynn Wood, executive director of the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce, said this will be the largest field of contestants in the competition’s history, with 15 restaurants and bars entered.
As of Thursday, the following businesses were signed up to compete: Antoine’s Café; Beachfire Bar & Grill; Big Helyn’s South Side Saloon; Café Mimosa; Fig@313; H.H. Cotton’s; The Local; OC Tavern; Ole’s Tavern; Pierside Kitchen + Bar; Red Fox Lounge; Rockwell’s Bakery, Cafe & Bar; San Clemente Elks Lodge #2068; The Shwack Cantina; and Taka-O Japanese Restaurant.
“It’s a really special event and really fun to watch,” Wood said. “It’s great for the restaurants, and at this event they’re all able to congregate. It’s just a lot of camaraderie between the restaurants.”
Erin Blake, a manager at H.H. Cotton’s, said the bar will be able to facilitate two wells at once to keep the drinks flowing and the competition going. This is the first year the restaurant has hosted the competition.
“We’re bringing in the Epic roaming photographer, and our chef has prepared an amazing array of food for the event,” Blake said. “We are a fun bar, and we are able to hold a lot of people here, and we are eager to win it again,” as H.H. Cotton’s did in 2017 with a frozen floral drink.
Blake said she wants to make sure the competition stays organized and has planned out a strategy to make it more efficient.
Hors d’oeuvres and a sampling of the presented libations will be available with the purchase of an entry ticket.
Due to space limitations, the Chamber will sell about 30 tickets, but they were still on sale as of Tuesday, March 12. Tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. To purchase, call 949.492.1131 or come by the Chamber office at 1231 Puerta Del Sol. Tickets will not be sold at the door. The event runs from 3-5 p.m.
Restaurant participation was open to member restaurants only, as another opportunity for the Chamber’s members to market their businesses, according to a Chamber press release.