Into the stretch (limo, that is), the Martini Mix-Off judges sipped through their second week with some stellar martinis. Visiting four more bars and with only four more to go, the panel of judges includes myself, Joe Dewey (former proprietor of Mosaic), Doug Alley (four-year judge and manager of the State Dispensary downtown), Hilarie Engle (a martini convert) and Lori Dunbar (of Kandor and Lavendar). This week, all enjoyed the mixologist's concoctions from Reef, Mai Thai, The MilkyWay and Happy Fish.
Dave Krick, proprietor of Red Feather, Bittercreek Ale House and Reef always goes over the top with style, something we judges like, but do not factor in when it comes to judging the actual drink. Waiting for the judges on the ground floor of Reef were saronged escorts, who led us by the arm upstairs after adorning us with fresh leis. I told Dave that getting the judges leid won't help his score, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless. Bartender Katie Oelrich plied our palates with the Exoverboard, a Martin Miller's Westborough Strength martini with a tropical flair of Cointreau. Then out came the big guns. The Tangerine Rangoon, served in a coconut cup and made with tangerine puree, lime, Plymouth Gin, pomegranate grenadine and cinnamon, was an exotic surprise.
After settling in at Mai Thai, we encountered something the Martini Mix-Off has never seen beforea science theme. Decked out like complete nerds (except for the bar back who wore sexy fishnets to contrast her lab coat), they experimented on us with a dry ice-chilled Tanqueray No. 10 and vermouth classic martini called the Ten Below. It was the coldest one we've encountered this year so far. The bartender Casey Jones made the Crimson Cafe with Courvoisier Cognac, Razzmataz Rasberry Liqueur and espresso bean-stuffed raspberries.
How could you top those two bars, you ask? By hitting last year's winner, The MilkyWay, next. Premier mixologist Pat Carden gave us a new variation of his trademarked 10-Minute Martini called The '33 Plymouth made withyou guessed itPlymouth Gin, which seems to be the gin of choice this year for many entrants. Next he prepared the Dawson's One Eye Open specialty drink, a layered concoction with Starbucks liqueur, Starbucks Cream and Makers Mark Bourbon.
At Happy Fish, the night's final stop, bartender Jeff Kempthorne shook up the Happy Fish Classic, a EFFEN Vodka and King Eider vermouth martini. We always like judging Happy Fish because they give us sushi while we eat, and they come up with something creative every time. Named the Asian Persuasion, Happy Fish's specialty martini made with Absolut Ruby Red Vodka, Lychee Juice and Ruby Red grapefruit juice finished our evening before a pleasant limo ride home.
This Thursday judges visit Bardenay, The Melting Pot, Pair and The Piper Pub & Grill. Martini Mix-Off tickets are available at all participating bars for $60, which includes one martini at all 12 participating bars and the Martini Gala on May 26 at the Boise Art Museum. All proceeds benefit the Boise Art Museum. Martini coupons as part of the ticket can be used during the month of May and June.