After we created the Facebook event page for the Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Championship, a well-meaning friend commented: “I’m confused. Non-Alcoholic? Why bother?”
Here’s why: There are many, many people who do not drink alcohol—for a variety of reasons. Yet all of those people still go into bars and restaurants with friends who do imbibe—and their drink choices are often severely limited, to soda, juice, coffee, tea and perhaps a really bad nonalcoholic beer.
It does not have to be this way: Non-drinkers deserve tasty cocktails, too—and it’s indeed possible to create cocktail-style drinks without alcohol.
This point was illustrated masterfully on Saturday, Nov. 19, at Gelson’s in Rancho Mirage, during the Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Championship, a production of the Independent‘s Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week. While a couple of contestants dropped out at the last minute due to work commitments, the two contestants—Kevin Carlow of Seymour’s/Mr Lyons (and, it should be noted, an Independent contributor) and Joey Tapia of New York Company—proved with their delicious cocktails that alcohol is not needed for a drink to be downright tasty.
The judges—the Independent‘s Garrett Dangerfield; Kristin Stahr of Gelson’s; Alexis Ortega of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert; and Doug VanSant of reigning Best Local Band (according to readers voting in the Best of Coachella Valley) The Flusters—had split opinions on which drink was best. However, Tapia—who won the Audience Choice Award two nights before at the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship—and his watermelon-based drink edged out Carlow and his deliciously sweet, vinegary cocktail.
Below are photos from the event.