Back in December, the Festival held the preliminary round of the annual Mixologist Competition, where finalists were selected from a pool of over twenty entries. This year, in a new twist, participants were tasked with creating a drink that to pair with a dish created by Frank McMahon of Hank’s Seafood, consisting of a seared scallop with kohlrabi slaw, speck, caraway, mustard gastrique and pumpernickel croutons. A panel of industry judges selected a group of five finalists to compete in the finals, held yesterday at Republic Reign.

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Finalists arrived at upper King Street’s Republic Reign, where the battle for cocktail supremacy took place. The five competitors included Chris Laine of IceBox, Gerry Kieran of Seanachi, Hallie Arnold of The Grocery, Megan Deschaine of Tristan, and Sarah Martin of Bay Street Biergarten. Each presented his or her original cocktail to the panel of judges including Charlotte Voisey, representing William Grant & Sons, Evan Powell, winner of the 2013 Mixologist Competition, Gillian Zettler, the Festival’s Executive Director, Bernard Vard from the Art Institute of Charleston and Patrick Emerson of Communion Wine Club.

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Chris Laine presented his cocktail first, titled Blood Red Sea, and featuring Reyka Vodka, lemon juice, blood orange syrup and Fee Brothers Falernum.

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Gerry Kieran submitted his drink next. Called A Suckle Dew, it included Reyka Vodka, Seanachi Shrub, Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, Lillet Rose and bitters.

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Hallie Arnold’s cocktail was named Swan Song. Ingredients included Reyka Vodka, guava juice, apple ginger shrub, fennel frond juice, and caraway Szechuan tincture.

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Megan Deschaine submitted a cocktail called, Ēostre, which featured sauvignon blanc, Reyka Vodka, black pepper strawberry shrub, Aperol, Absinth, and fennel fronds for garnish.

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Last, but not least, Sarah Martin brought her submission, named Festival Flip. The cocktail contained Reyka Vodka, Lillet Rose, lemon juice, caraway simple syrup, apple bitters, and egg whites.

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All of the submissions were creative and tasty, complementing Frank McMahon’s dish to perfection. Unfortunately, only one cocktail creator could win. After much deliberation, the judges revealed the winner to be Hallie Arnold from The Grocery with her cocktail, Swan Song. After the announcement, guests stayed for a reception sponsored by Imbibe magazine and presented by William Grant & Sons with Reyka Vodka.

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Just because you weren’t at this event, doesn’t mean you won’t have a chance to taste Hallie’s Swan Song. Her cocktail will be featured as the Official Festival Signature Cocktail at the Festival’s Opening Night Party, taking place on March 6th from 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm. Not only can you sample the cocktail, but also dishes from a collection of Charleston’s most beloved chefs. It’s a hot event, and you don’t want to miss out! Tickets can be purchased on the Festival website.

You can also watch four of the five finalists compete for the title of Iron Mixologist Charleston during the Festival weekend! Participants will compete in three rounds of thrilling competition challenging their creativity and knowledge. The winner will be named Iron Mixologist Charleston and receive a trip to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Don’t miss out on this exciting event – get your tickets now!

Cheers!