Terranea Blog

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Cocktail Competition on the Coast

  Written By Adam Stearns, Terranea’s Assistant Beverage Manager

There are so many benefits of having a cocktail competition at Terranea Resort. My first reason for putting this together was to encourage our bartenders to showcase their creativity. This idea goes much further than that though. We have the benefit of working for a very large resort with so much diversity and so many different personalities and cultures; I want each of these bartenders to feel that. I want them to see what other bars at our resort our accomplishing and to learn from each other. My biggest goal is to connect each of these individuals in order to create a much larger community and I believe challenging them to compete against each other is one of the best ways to do it.

We asked the team to create cocktails that they felt represented their bar/ restaurant, incorporated creative techniques, and most of all represented themselves. When we are judging the cocktails for the competition, we have created a set criteria along with scores and numbers in order to be as fair as possible. After all is said and done, we only look at the numbers when it is a very close call (which happened a few times, honestly). What we are really looking for though is how they implement interesting or creative techniques. We listen to what they have to say about their cocktail, and what it means to them. We want to see that they have the technique, but also are producing a beautiful cocktail that is well balanced and has interesting flavors.

There were six winners for the first round of the competition: Ryan Herrick from Lobby Bar with the “Firebird,” Mackenzie Williams from bashi with “Koyo,” Richard Murguia from mar’sel with “Native Flourish,” Navil Lorenzana from catalina kitchen with “Rye Berry Smash,” Adrian Machado from Nelsons with “Somebody Call 911,” and Melina Rosales from the Pools with “London Knights.”

Ryan used what initially seems like a simple idea and turned it into something dynamic and colorful by using dehydrated kiwi mixed with Hawaiian sea salt for the rim, and lacing his cocktail with Pimm’s liqueur. Mackenzie takes the Asian inspired menu to great depth by using a French press to incorporate fall-like elements which are personal to her, along with Japanese whisky. Richard is always willing to take a chance; he does it again by incorporating an uncommon bush-like flower called a “bougainvillea,” and also white wine vinegar into his cocktail. Adrian Machado has this great ability to be playful with his cocktails, and does it this time by incorporating Cheetos in his twist of a spicy margarita. Navil has such a positive and glowing personality, and it is absolutely contagious; her cocktail represents her so well because the flavors of it really are bright and refreshing. The great thing about Navil’s cocktail is that she is still able to capture the rustic element of her restaurant through the use of rye whiskey. Melina stood out because of her humble approach. She impressed us with her cocktail that is inspired from a personal experience in England, and whether she knows it or not, that is what this event is all about.

What I try to teach our bar staff is that it is okay to try new things; in fact, I absolutely encourage it. The goal when creating your own cocktail is to create a balance, or harmony between the ingredients. I refer to this “harmony” as “strong, sweet, and sour.” “Strong” represents the alcohol or spirit component, “sweet” represents any type of sweetener, and “sour” represents an acidic component like lemon juice, lime juice, or even vinegar. These components are incorporated into most cocktails and must be in sync or balanced with each other in order to have a “well-balanced” cocktail. From there, flavor is all subjective and there are many directions that you can take it, but balance is key. You should also try to use as few ingredients as possible when creating a cocktail. If you put too many ingredients in a cocktail, certain flavors are bound to get covered up and serve no purpose. When making a cocktail you should try new things and taste everything. It is meant to be fun, and it is! Get creative, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes and make things that taste terrible. All of the best bartenders have made terrible drinks; that is how they know how to make great drinks now!

I am extremely excited to be assisting with the Celebration of Food and Wine at Terranea Resort this year. We are really focusing on showcasing the best of what we have to offer, and this cocktail competition is part of that. The first night’s opening reception at cielo point will allow guests to choose their favorite cocktail poolside out of the six participants mentioned previously. The two bartenders with the highest amount of votes will go on to compete on the final night. This part of the competition will decide the final winner, and they will collect the grand prize and have their cocktail featured across each of our bars! This is a chance for our guests to really interact with the experience, because they will essentially be choosing who wins.

This entire process has been exciting for myself and the team and regardless of the winner, everyone has put forth a great amount of effort and done a fantastic job. I couldn’t be more proud of our team, and I cannot wait to show our guests what they are capable of at this event.

To buy tickets for the Celebration of Food and Wine and cast your vote in person, please visit Terranea.com/store.


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