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Chris Macias

Chris Dooley of Ella Dining Room & Bar takes first place at the Midtown Cocktail Week cocktail competition and announces his retirement from the contest circuit.

More on the winning drink from Midtown Cocktail Week’s cocktail competition

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 - 5:27 pm

Chris Dooley of Ella Dining Room & Bar (pictured above) emerged from Midtown Cocktail Week’s cocktail competition $1,000 richer on Tuesday night at Harlow’s. His drink, an elaborately presented “Bloomsbury Bramble” which was surrounded by orchids and looked like a scene from “Fantasy Island,” topped all contendors.

The eight bartenders duking it out cocktail style were actually the finalists from a pool of 24 hopefuls who competed in a preliminary round on Aug. 11. All hopefuls were required to use Tanqueray No. TEN gin in their drink. I helped determine the winner Tuesday night in a judging panel that included Jayson Wilde, a Shady Lady alum and current general manager of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco, Rick Dobbs (owner of The Last Word in Livermore) and Tanqueray national brand ambassador (and former Sacramentan) Rachel Ford.

Dooley scored big with his spin on a bramble, a classic and fairly sweet gin-based drink that’s synonymous with England and traditionally garnished with blackberries. Dooley enhanced the pronounced citrus notes of the Tanqueray with a bit of Japanese yuzu juice, used a sous vide technique to extract the maximum flavor from the blackberries used in his mix, and added a layer of coconut foam as a topper.

Alycia Rubio of Grange, who tied for third place with Shady Lady’s Travis Kavanaugh, also showed some crafty techniques in her cocktail. Her creation, the “Rusty Pearl,” was like something from The Aviary in Chicago. The cocktail was paired with an amuse bouche (amuse booze?) that incorporated Mission figs cooked sous vide style in averna liqueur, and then formed into a burst-in-your-mouth globule via a reverse spherification technique. The cocktail itself utilized the gin, honey liqueur, fresh cracked pepper and lemon zest. Yes, that’s quite a mouthful of a description, but the important part is the cocktail was done well and deserved to be in the winners’ circle.

As for Dooley, his big win on Tuesday night also counts as his swan song from cocktail competitions.

“I love being a part of Sacramento’s cocktail culture and I’m a competitive person,” said Dooley. “But I’m ready to settle into a different role.”

Once again, here are the top finishers from the 2014 Midtown Cocktail Week cocktail competition.

1st: Chris Dooley of Ella Dining Room & Bar

2nd: Baron Stelling of Hock Farm

3rd (tie): Alycia Rubio of Grange and Travis Kavanaugh of Shady Lady

Read more articles by Chris Macias

About Appetizers

Chris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's Food & Wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farm workers in Lodi. Chris also judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. His profile of a former gangbanger-turned-pastry-chef was included in Da Capo's "Best Food Writing 2012."

Read his Wine Buzz columns here
(916) 321-1253
Twitter: @chris_macias

Allen Pierleoni writes about casual lunchtime restaurants in The Sacramento Bee's weekly "Counter Culture" column. He covers a broad range of topics, including food, travel, books and authors. In addition to writing the weekly column "Between the Lines," he oversees the Sacramento Bee Book Club, in which well-known authors give free presentations to the public.

Read his Counter Culture reviews here
(916) 321-1128
Twitter: @apierleonisacbe

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Sacramento Bee's food critic.

Read his restaurant reviews here
(916) 321-1099
Twitter: @Blarob

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