A sold out crowd of about 500 people filled a club in Newport News' City Center last Friday night for the Peninsula Fine Arts Center's annual "Artini."
The fundraiser brings together bartenders from the region in a competition to make the best cocktail. This year's event was at Ella's Place, a pop-up jazz club running celebrating Newport News native Ella Fitzgerald's 100 birthday.
To tie into the theme of the location, this year's competition tasked the 12 restaurants competing to make a drink based on a Fitzgerald song.
As a judge at this year's Artini, I sampled the dozen drinks and scored each one along with three other judges — Kim Wadsworth, founding editor of Vow Bride Magazine; George Culver, who runs the blog "I-heart-food" and Angela Blue, editor-in-chief of Coastal Virginia magazine.
For the first time in Artini history, the judge's winner and popular vote was the same. Williamsburg's Waypoint Seafood and Grill walked away the winner in both categories.
The restaurants' concoction was called "Gin and All That Jazz." It was a gin-based martini with basil leaves, pineapple, Asian pear and ginger bitters. It stood out from the pack with a refreshing and slightly fruity taste.
When many other competitors went with strong flavors — like a candy-sweet popsicle concoction or one with pepperonis and cheese in it — Waypoint stood out by not trying to overdo it.
"I really enjoyed crafting this cocktail with Ella Fitzgerald's gorgeous vocals to inspire a complex and powerful, but extremely smooth and balanced martini. Just like the singer herself," said bartender Catherine Keller via email.
About $24,000 was raised at this year's event. The money benefits PFAC's Art Access and Healing Arts programs. Art Access eliminates entrance fees to the museum for schoolchildren in the area. Healing Arts provides art therapy to military service members and their families.
Pet adoptions at Tradition
Tails will be wagging Sunday at Tradition Brewing Company.
The brewery is hosting Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter for a pet adoption event from 1 to 4 p.m. In order for the pets to feel at ease, the Tradition is asking owners not to bring their dogs inside the brewery.
Food for the day will come courtesy of Cubania food truck, serving Latin American cuisine.
Tradition is located at 700 Thimble Shoalds Boulevard, Newport News. More info: facebook.com/TraditionBrewing or 757-592-9393.
Open mic to benefit veterans at VBC
Williamsburg's Virginia Beer Company is partnering with the Armed Services Arts Partnership to hold an open mic night Sunday for veterans, service members and military family members.
ASAP is an Alexandria-based orgnaization helping veterans and service families through artistic expression and camaraderie through stand-up comedy, improv and creative writing. Sunday's show will feature both music and comedy.
Tickets are $10 can be found at facebook.com/VirginiaBeerCo. Proceeds benefit ASAP programming.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Virginia Beer Company is located at 401 2nd Street, Williamsburg. More info: 757-378-2903.
Beer dinner at Riverwalk
Yorktown's Water Street Grille will partner with Ashland's Center of the Universe Brewing Co. for a beer dinner Thursday evening.
The beer dinner will feature four courses for $50. It starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the dinner can be purchased by calling 757-369-5644.
Also that evening, Water Street will do a Steal the Pint Night from 6 to 9 p.m. Any customer that purchases a Center of the Universe beer will receive a complimentary souvenior glass.
More info: waterstreetgrille.net.
Black can be reached by phone at 757-247-4607.
Gin and All That Jazz
4 basil leaves
1 round of fresh pineapple
several slices of Asian pear, peeled
1 teaspoon tonka bean syrup (see recipe below)
2 dash spiced ginger bitters (see recipe below)
2 oz Malfy Limone Gin
1 oz champagne float (optional)
In shaker tin, crush basil leaves
Add tonka bean syrup, pineapple and Asian pear
Muddle until juiced
Add Malfy Limone Gin and spiced ginger bitters
Shake all ingredients until cold
Strain into martini glass
Top with champagne (optional)
Garnish with fresh basil leaf, diced pineapple and Asian pear (or lemon twist)
Spiced Ginger Bitters
750 ml 100 Proof Grain Alcohol
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 inch fresh turmeric, peeled and grated
1 dozen cardamom pods
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon juniper berries
1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoon rose petals
In 8 separate containers, add each botanical to 3 oz of grain alcohol, seal tightly and let infuse for 7 to 21 days. When you open the containers and can smell the botanical above the scent of grain alcohol, you will know it's ready to strain.
As each botanical finishes the infusion process, carefully strain and mix together until after 21 days you have all the ingredients strained and gently blended.
A couple of dashes of Spiced Ginger Bitters works well in classic martinis, fruit-based martinis/cocktails, and Manhattans.
Store in an airtight container.
Orange peel and tonka bean syrup
1 whole orange peel (peeled with a Channel knife or potato peeler)
12 tonka beans (slightly crushed/broken open)
2 cups water
1 cup cane sugar or turbinado sugar
Add orange peel, slightly crushed Tonka beans and water to
1 quart pot
Bring to boil and then turn down to simmer for 45 minutes
Add sugar and stir until dissolved
Refrigerate for 8–12 hrs.