The first eight weeks of every year is an exciting time to be involved in the bar program at Columbus-based Cameron Mitchell. That’s when six different high-profile mixologists put their best dozen Mitchell-matched cocktails forward. “Everybody’s competing to make sure they’re putting their best out there. They’re trying to partner with us, but in a creative way that fits our concepts,” says Ryan Valentine, director of beverage for the 30-unit restaurant company. Good news for the mixologists? Everybody wins. Cameron Mitchell has so many concepts; the best from each mixologist (as determined by a Cameron Mitchell tasting panel) will end up on a menu somewhere within the company.
Of course, a few drinks each year rise to the very top. For 2011? Mixologist, author and beverage consultant Kim Haaserud’s Limonade Cocktail, a mix of Belvedere citrus vodka, housemade limoncello, hand-squeezed lemon juice, agave nectar and Peroni Italian 202 got the highest score of all the drinks submitted. The resulting cocktail will soon roll on to menus at Cameron Mitchell’s Marcella’s Italian Kitchen concept.
“Why do we do it?” muses Valentine: “Because bringing these mixologists means we end up with much more creative cocktails that sell a lot better than what we could do on our own.” As well, Valentine says the mixology presentations are set up as a workshop that Cameron Mitchell bartenders are welcome to attend. “You can’t help but learn new techniques when you are seeing the current craft demonstrated first hand,” Valentine concludes.