PORTLAND — Mix 15 hot-shot bartenders, free-flowing vodka and oodles of creativity, shake thoroughly, and you have the Maine Bartenders Bash, taking place Monday at the Portland Museum of Art. This kick-off event for Maine Restaurant Week invites you to judge who slings the best cocktail in Maine.

The rules are simple. Each participating mixologist was given two instructions: Use Cold River Vodka and adhere to the theme of ”Celebrating the Spirit of Maine.” Beyond that, the bartenders’ imagination is the only limit.

Tom Laslavic, who keeps bar at Natalie’s Restaurant at the Camden Harbour Inn, looked to his immediate surroundings for inspiration.

”One of the most popular activities with our guests is to hike Mount Battie,” Laslavic said. ”I thought, ‘What could you find on a walk through a nice Camden day?’ ”

The answer: Blueberries, blackberries and honey.

He’ll use those three ingredients, plus a little lemon, to whip up a cocktail called Camden Hike.

The names and ingredients of the other mixed drinks are being kept under wraps until the party, but it’s no stretch to think others may include blueberries in their concoctions. The question is, will anyone use more unusual Maine-inspired flavors, such as Moxie, baked beans or lobster?

The fine folks who’ll be mixing the night’s libations are among the best in the state. They include Zeus Hannah Suzette of Azure Cafe, Claire Stretch of Back Bay Grill, Carolyn Giles of Back Street Bistro, John Myers of the Corner Room, Josh Cannady of Fuel, Barry McEvoy of Grace, Amie Kitchen of the Hilton Garden Inn’s Great American Grill, Roxanne Dragon of Hugo’s, Jessica Josephy of Local 188, Joe Ricchio of Old Port Sea Grill, Tracy Rousseau and Carol Marshall of Solo Bistro, Cory Beckwith of the Salt Exchange, Scott Doherty of Vignola and Steve Lovenguth of Walter’s.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the tasting — accompanied by eats from Aurora Provisions such as vegetables pickled in Cold River Vodka — starts right away. Each bartender will display a full-sized, garnished cocktail and then offer up roughly half-ounce samples. Ballots need to be turned in by 7 p.m., but the sipping goes on until 7:30.

Once the votes are tallied, one bartender will rise to the top and be named the winner. He or she will walk away with a $500 cash prize.

When asked what he’d do with the prize money should he win, Laslavic said: ”I’d put it into my car.”

Spoken just like a frugal Yankee who truly understands the ”Spirit of Maine.”

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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