Sacramento bartenders put their best glass forward during Midtown Cocktail Week

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 - 8:04 pm

Aged to perfection. Steeped in history. Best enjoyed with friends.

All of the above describe great booze. But this year, they apply equally to Midtown Cocktail Week, Sacramento’s annual celebration of all things shaken, stirred, mixed, muddled and sipped from a coupe glass.

Or, if you prefer, seasoned with lemon smoke from a hand-rolled cigarette stuffed with wood shavings from a Kentucky bourbon barrel. Or mixed with salt and calcium to create a blob resembling a zombie’s eyeball.

Sacramento-area bartenders are an inventive bunch, and they take advantage of the week to showcase their mixological prowess.

“We make really unique, one-of-a-kind drinks,” said Ryan Seng, a bartender at The Grange on J Street, who won a cocktail competition last year for his smoke-and-alcohol concoction.

Midtown Cocktail Week turns 6 this year and organizers predict the 2013 festival will be well attended. They expect to see some traffic from the Bay Area, where June’s San Francisco Cocktail Week was canceled because of scheduling conflicts and problems with the state’s department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

Last year, the Midtown Business Association, which helps organize the Sacramento event, saw about 1,600 people attend the seven-day celebration. This year, it anticipates up to 2,000 people.

Running Wednesday through Aug. 25, Midtown Cocktail Week will be punctuated by a variety of themed parties at bars throughout the midtown area. Events include a lesson on punch and specialty gin from renowned cocktail historian David Wondrich (who has written for Esquire and Imbibe magazines) and a make-the-best-shot competition for rookie bartenders.

Sacramento has been raising its mixed-drink profile as of late. Both the San Francisco Chronicle and Imbibe magazine recently acknowledged the city’s thriving cocktail scene, with Imbibe editors noting the city had been flying “under the national radar.”

Local bartenders such as Brett Heyer hope to change that under-the-radar perception. Heyer, who has been behind the bar at The Grange for almost a year, is experimenting with elements of molecular gastronomy for his still-unnamed drink, which he hopes will resemble a zombie eyeball. He said he plans to enter it in Wednesday’s rookie shot competition at The Golden Bear, 2326 K St., (916) 441-2242.

Heyer plans to create a perfect sphere using a combination of organic powders that will surround the alcohol (he’s still deciding which booze to use) in a thin, flavorless membrane. After adding some strawberry purée that resembles fake blood, Heyer, a longtime horror movie fan, will present his concoction to adventurous tipplers.

Midtown Cocktail Week offers a variety of events for those 21 and over, whether they’re interested in complicated cocktails, sensational shots or average aperitifs.

The following list highlights some options:


“The Big Show,” 6-9 p.m., Lowbrau, 1050 20th St.; (916) 706-2636; Admission: $10

Six bartenders will compete to create a cocktail for three judges, and will make batches of their cocktails for the audience.

“Rookie Shot Competition,” 9 p.m.-closing, The Golden Bear, 2326 K St.; (916) 441-2242

Bartenders with less than one year of professional experience will compete to create the best shot.


“The Kabuki Show,” 6-9 p.m., Hook and Ladder Manufacturing Co., 1630 S St.; (916) 442-4885; Admission: $6

Japanese whiskey and cocktails will be served alongside Japanese cuisine, with live music and a small bites menu.

“It Takes Two to Tiki” at Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar (9 p.m.-close)

Bartenders will be tied together for a “three-legged” cocktail competition while a DJ plays.

Next Friday :

“The Best Dam Show,” 6 p.m.-closing, The Grange, 926 J St.; (916) 492-4450

Billed as a “Hollywood Golden-Era Gatsby-esque Party,” this all-night celebration will feature the opening of a barrel of Aged Bols Genever, along with comedy and dancing. Classy attire required.

“Pour House Spots and Pops,” 9 p.m.-closing, The Pour House, 1910 Q St.; (916) 706-2465

Shaken shots and frozen cocktail pops will be served as live music plays.

Aug. 24:

“The West-End Art Show,” 6-9 p.m., Blackbird Kitchen & Bar, 1015 Ninth St., (916) 498-9224

Midtown visitors can enjoy art from the downtown studio Exhibit S, along with cocktails and music.

Aug. 25:

“Best in Show,” 1-4 p.m., Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar, 2718 J St.; (916) 706-2275

Barbecue and bourbon cocktails will be served as ribbons and awards are awarded to bartenders and bars who participated in Midtown Cocktail week. There will also be carnival games and prizes.

“Ladies United for the Preservation of the Endangered Cocktail,” 5-10 p.m., House Spirits Distillery, 1517 21st St.; (916) 706-0052; admission: $10

Sacramento’s female bartenders will mix cocktails to support WEAVE Inc., a Sacramento-based women’s-support organization.

Read more articles by Benjamin Mullin

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