Life of the Party: ARTini’s Inspired Cocktail

by John Arundel

The city’s top mixologists design an inspired cocktail.
By Fran Holuba

700 revelers showed up for this year's ARTini Gala, benefiting The Corcoran. (Photo by Fran Holuba)

ARTini season is quickly becoming one of DC’s most beloved annual traditions and this year the contestants truly delivered.  Mixologists were asked to design an original cocktail based on one work of art from the Corcoran Gallery’s collection, and in a sold-out event for 750 anxious imbibers, the mixologists rattled their jiggers and shaking tins to compete for Washington, D.C.’s most inspired cocktail. In testament to the great participation from the mixologists and subsequent turnout, the event raised an impressive $50,000 for ArtReach.

Patrons donned creative cocktail attire and danced among the columns and a backdrop of playful lighting while sipping, slurping and downright chugging the delicious creations.

Favorites included Jack Rose Dining Saloon’s Rachel Sergi, who whipped up “The Threshold,” a refreshing tequila-based pink libation topped with a tasty honey air. Oyamel‘s Joe Cleveland also picked pink with some molecular magic in his drink “Alegria,” which featured a solid form of the cocktail to be eaten like a lime wedge.

Oyamel’s Joe Cleveland picked pink with some molecular magic in his drink “Alegria,” which featured a solid form of the cocktail to be eaten like a lime wedge. Photo by Fran Holuba.

In the weeks preceding the ARTINI gala, dedicated ARTini goers traipsed around Washington to 11 citywide venues for ARTini Feature nights. Participating venues included Ardeo + Bardeo, Art and Soul, El Centro D.F., Founding Farmers, The Gibson, POV at the W Hotel, The Passenger, Smith Commons and Tabard Inn.

Fans were also asked to log on to to vote for their favorite drink. Winner of that online vote went to Ronald Flores of Art & Soul for his Mount Gay Silver Eclipse Rum and Rooibos herbal tea drink, “Zeitgeist” which was inspired by Aaron Douglas’s Into Bondage (1936, oil on canvas).

The panel of five local judges announced Joseph Ambrose of the POV Lounge at the W Hotel as the night’s unanimous winner for “Critics’ Choice” award. “Theo’s Flower” is based on Terry Winters’ piece Theophrastus Garden 2 (1982, oil on linen.)

The dark, abstract painting gave Joe inspiration in both color and theme. “I used seasonal ingredients to best portray the dark hues of red and some of the lighter colors from Winters’ painting,” said Joe, in explaining his inspiration. “The bottom portion of the drink represents the reddish ground in the painting or the earth. I used dark sugar and blood orange for this portion of the drink, combined with gin and vodka, moro oil and bitters. The tart white foam top mixes with the sweet drink, balancing out the ingredients in the taster’s mouth.”

The painting’s namesake, Theophrastus, was a pupil and successor of ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle and is considered the “father of botany” for his surviving extensive treatises on plants and flowers. As homage to the late great botanist, Joe candied fresh edible pansies to float daintily across the lemon foam.

Mixologist Joseph Ambrose of The W Washington's POV Lounge celebrates his big win at ARTini 2012. Photo by Fran Holuba.

Theo’s Flower

1.5 oz 42 Below Vodka
0.5 oz Plymouth Gin
0.5 oz St. Germain
0.75 oz Brown Simple Syrup
0.75 oz Moro Orange Juice Bitters
Oil from a 3.5 gm Moro orange peel
Lemon Foam
Garnish: Crystallized Edible Flowers (Candied)
Glassware: Martini Glass

· Combine all ingredients except for foam in a mixing tin. Shake contents with ice, then strain into a frosted martini glass.
· Top the drink off with lemon foam from a nitrous-charged ISI and garnish with edible flowers.

Photo by Tony Brown

Photo by Tony Brown

Carrie Langsam and Howard Langsam (Photo by Tony Brown)

Beatrice Larkin, Dana Foley and Elizabeth Grazioli (Photo by Tony Brown)

The ARTini 2012 Mixologists (Photo by Tony Brown)

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