Cocktails in the Limelight
"Santa Fe's Most Spirited Festival"
Handcrafted cocktails are enjoying a renaissance in this country, fueled by locally crafted spirits, foraged herbs and a loving attention to details. Not since pre-Prohibition days has the golden age of cocktails been as bubbly and effervescent as it is today, thanks to a renewed American interest in cocktails as evidenced in the garden-to-glass movement.
You'll have a chance to raise a glass to craft cocktails during the second annual New Mexico Cocktails & Culture 2016, June 3-6, which kicks off with Santa Fe Cocktail Week this Friday, May 27. The event brings together hospitality professionals with those who simply love cocktails and dining for a week that will elevate your spirits with seminars, food and drink challenges, films, art and more. There's also a haunted bar tour and a chance to sample cocktails at participating bars and restaurants and then vote for your favorites.
The event is organized by Natalie Bovis' The Liquid Muse, a consulting, educational, cocktail catering and editorial resource for beverage and spirit companies, bar professionals, event coordinators and even home entertainers. Bovis, who grew up in Santa Fe and has worked in the industry in Los Angeles and D.C., was named one of just four women leading the liquor industry by bustle.com.
“I've had the Liquid Muse for 10 years and during that time I've ben involved with many cocktail fests around the county,” she says. “I've been a teacher and lecturer and when I moved back to Santa Fe, I wanted to bring a taste of that here. Our cocktail culture is still in its infancy in many ways because big cities are exposed to larger trends. Here it's a smaller community, so I thought 'Why not bring those trends to Santa Fe and expose our community that way?' We have so many interesting native plants and herbs and cultures that it can be a very unique place to create cocktails and I'm very excited about pairing cocktails with food. It's such a strong culinary theme that going one step further than pairing wine will excite a lot of the locals and visitors here.”
From May 27 through June 5, participants in Santa Fe Cocktail Week can check out the local talent at a dozen Santa Fe cocktail bars and 13 restaurant bars, each offering a signature cocktail, such as Eloisa's Heart of Barranco, made with Barsol pisco, Spanish vermouth, housemade beet-ginger syrup and served in a smoke-seasoned snifter; La Casa Sena's Viracocha Mango Martini, a concoction of locally distilled Vodka Viracocha infused with mango, Cointreau, chile salt rim and orange twist; and Coyote Cantina's Summer’s Blush, with gin, rhubarb, strawberry, sweet cooking spices, citrus and tonic. Online voting from May 27 through June 5 will produce winners of the Best Cocktail Bar, Restaurant Bar and Bartender of the Year, who will receive trophies at the NMCC Closing Party and Liquid Muse Bar Awards on June 6 from 5:30 to 8 at La Fonda on the Plaza.
New Mexico Cocktails & Culture starts with the Cowboy Boots & Cocktails party at the Inn and Spa at Loretto on Friday, June 3, featuring New Mexico-made spirits as straight samples and in signature cocktails as well as live music and celebrity mixologists in town to teach the Spirited Seminars, all held at Skylight. These include a Negroni Brunch on Saturday, June 5 from 11:45 am to 1 pm, with modern mixologist Tony Abou Ganim, who will explore the classic cocktail—traditionally made with gin, vermouth rosso, Campari and an orange peel garnish—and its iterations, the Boulevardier and Rosita.
Kailee Asher, brand ambassador for Azunia Tequila, and Anthony Pullen, brand ambassador for Bulldog Gin, lead The Historic Journey from Daisy to Margarita, the World’s Most Popular Cocktail at Skylight from 1:30 to 2:40 pm, detailing how the classic gin daisy evolved over time into the beloved margarita, due to politics, circumstance and coincidence. Bobby “G” Gleason, master mixologist for Beam Suntory, will demo Mixology Made Easy, the basics of making your own great cocktails at Skylight from 3 to 4:10 pm.
The seminars continue on Sunday from noon to 1:10 pm with Hechos on Mexico, led by JP DeLoera, ambassador for Milagro Tequila, who will showcase a trio of spirits made with ingredients from three distinctive states of Mexico—Los Altos of Jalisco, land of Milagro Tequila; Oaxaca's organic agave fields, the birthplace of Montelobos Mezcal; and Puebla, where poblano peppers used in Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur. Check the website for the seminar schedules. From 3 to 4:10 pm, mixologist Layla Linn presents Perfect Pairings: Honey Varietals and Spirits, focused on honey, as both an alternative sweetener and flavor ingredient in cocktails, with samples of varietals from light, grassy alfalfa to bold and earthy buckwheat.
The Celebrity Chef and Shaker Challenge, held Saturday, June 4 from 6 to 9 pm, features Santa Fe chefs—including Eloisa's John Sedlar, Joseph's Culinary Pub's Joseph Wrede, The Compound's Mark Kiffin, and many others—pairing food with cocktails in the Scottish Rite Temple ballroom. After sampling the cuisine and cocktails, guests will vote for their favorite pairing.
Sunday's schedule also includes the Haunted Bar Tour, which begins at Skylight at 3 pm, and the USBG Bartender Bash at Skylight fro 6 to 8 pm. Events wrap up on Monday with Mind Body Spirits at Hotel St. Francis from 10:30 to 11:45 am and the Liquid Muse Bar Awards and closing party at La Fonda, 5:30 to 8 pm.
Bovis hopes that New Mexico Cocktails & Culture will continue to support the city's hotels, restaurants and bars by bringing out the locals as well as drawing visitors to Santa Fe during a traditionally slower season. “As the event grows, I know it will attract more people to Santa Fe this time of year, right before the tourist season kicks off. Late May/early June can be a bit of a lull, so bringing this event here can stimulate the kick-off of summer for local businesses.”
Does the Liquid Muse have her own favorite New Mexico cocktail? “I've had a lot of fun working with red chile, and infusing spirits with red chile powder, using local herbs and lavender from the farmer's market, sage from my mom's garden and, of course, green chile. I've worked with green chile both dried and roasted, and that's been really fun because being a Santa Fe girl means green chile is part of my world.”