I was asked to be a judge in the Second Annual Central Coast Vodka Martini Shakedown contest for charity. This event was held last year at my favorite restaurant, Rosa’s and I had a ball…………….and a hangover for three days. It is held on a Sunday at noon, so I didn’t eat much before. This year, I got smart and loaded up on pancakes and eggs, to absorb all the alcohol. Here is how the contest works:
Ten of the areas best bartenders are brought in and given portable bars. They each make their own unique martini. The guests can drink as many martinis as they want and there is a huge spread of gourmet food and jazz music playing. There are silent auctions, raffles, and giveaways. It is a blast. It raised over $6,000 for the food banks. Drunks for food, how poetic. Charities benefactors were the Food Bank’s Back Pack Program and St. Patrick’s Outreach open cupboard food program.
As a judge, I am whisked into a sequestered room with 10 other people (this year there was only 8) and the waitresses bring us one martini at a time. We don’t know which bar is making which martini. With each martini, we have a recipe card, and we taste and judge them on creativity, presentation, tastes and aroma.
After four martinis we are all soused. We become our own private club, we argue and joke and have an enormously excellent time. Then we have to pick top three. Problem is that there is regular martinis, sweet ones and desert ones and they are hard to judge against each other. I put them into these categories for the drunken debacle the judges became:
1. This is what you would drink after having a bitch of a day and you just wanted to get hammered and forget it all.
2. This is what you would drink on a hot day or a Sunday brunch. It tastes like Kool-Aid but will totally fuck you up.
3. This is a drink you would have after dinner instead of chocolate cake.
The comments are hilarious, judges bit each other, spilled on each other and the photographer got some incriminating photos. We became instant friends, and friends like that last a lifetime or until the ice melts. We didn’t care, we were bound together with vodka and the awesome responsibility of picking the best drink.
Here are some of the recipes we tried:
*Charlie and the Chocolate Orange: made with Level Vodka, Cravella Orangecello, and Godiva Liqueur.
*Absolut Tropic-Tini: made with Absolut Raspberri, Hpnotiq, Champagne, Chambord and orange.
*Das Strawtini: made with Absolut Vodka, Cointreau, strawberry, lemon and sugar
*This-is-itini: made with Absolut Raspberri, Grand Marnier, Champagne, rasberries and sweet & sour.
*Ginger Moscato Martini: made with Absolut vodka, late harvest wine, ginger juice, ginger sugar, grapes, toasted almonds and grape juice. (this one was the most creative, it would have won if not for the ginger being too strong)
*Prickly Pear: made with Absolut Pear, Malibu rum, apple pucker, sweet & sour and pineapple juice. It had a sliced pear floating in it, a phallic looking fruit. The drink became known as the “vagi-tini”.
First place was Paula Nichols from The Quarterdeck (same girl that won last year, she cried, it was sweet). Her drink was a Toes In The Grass, made with Level vodka, cucumber, honeydew, simple syrup, and green tea. Garnished with a slice of cucumber.
Second place was a PedroTini made by Cathleen Moore of Gardens of Avila (a tribute to Pedro who just passed away) it was made of Absolut vanilla, Bodegas Dios Baco “Pedro Ximenez” Sherry, Frangelico and orange juice. The rim was covered in Cinnamon.
Third place was made by Stacey Ciordanengo and Kristina Evans of the Corner View Restaurant and Bar. It was a Wicked Wahini Martini made with Absolut mango, orange juice, sweet and sour, guava nectar, orange, and jalapeno. It had a candied lemon rind, dipped in chocolate as a garnish.
People’s choice was from Steamers of Pismo, Bartenders Jared Moore and Jay Britton. It was called an Apple Coconut Mojito Martini and was made with Absolut vodka, Malibu rum, apple pucker, lime, mint, 7-up and soda. It was garnished with peeled lime and mint. (This was my favorite)
The judges were Me (Teri Bayus, Food and Film Critic), Mary Ann Reiss, Mayor of Pismo Beach, Raine Ross, with St. Patrick’s Outreach, John Shoals, Mayor of Grover Beach, Evan Treadwell, Executive Chef from Lido and Steve Watson from Absolute (who passed out after trying all 10 martinis never to be found again HA-HA). Judges had too much fun and we were planning on all flying to Vegas together, but that was forgotten once the vodka wore off.
Rosa’s Rocks http://www.rosasrestaurant.com/ with amazing food like scallop Florentine, pesto pot stickers, shrimp, salmon and the most amazing stuffed and dipped strawberries (Gary ate 12). Delectable cheese and fruit plates complimented the martinis. The food was impressive and there was plenty to go around.
We stayed too long, I started mixing martinis and pretty sure I accepted a marriage proposal. But I pray that I am invited back next year to be a judge.