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The Right Mix of Message and Mojitos

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Friday, December 18, 2009, at 10:22AM
IMGP9240 Ed Fuentes

The competition's overall winner was ESPN Zone's Kathleen Martin and her Pomegrante Christmas Kiss.



Inside L.A. Live's ESPN Zone on Tuesday, bartenders talked friendly trash to each other while vying to create the best overall mocktail judged on taste, creativity, appearance, and simplicity.

"Should designated drivers be stuck with sodas?" asked Rolando Nichols, ESPN Deportes Radio broadcaster for the Angels. "Of course not." Nichols was doing play-by-play for the Battle of the Bartender, sponsored by the Insurance Information Network of California and L.A. Live, with some backup from LAPD and CHP.

Each venue in the complex was represented, with bartenders pitching their prepared non-alcoholic holiday drinks to a panel of judges that included Betty Hallock, Deputy Food Critic for the Los Angeles Times, and CHP Public Information Officer John Harris, whose credentials include being a former bartender himself.

Behind the bar, there was playful banter between the competitors, but you could also see hands shaking as drinks were poured. Bartenders intently eyed the judges sipping each beverage, then making notes, before sipping some more.

The overall prize was won by ESPN Zone's Kathleen "Kat" Martin. Her Pomegrante Christmas Kiss, made of pomegranate syrup, half-and-half, chocolate syrup, peppermint syrup and candy canes beat some stiff drinks, and earned her an elegant trophy, bragging rights, and an iPod.

Clearly surprised, Martin, a recent USC graduate majoring in opera, toasted the competition. She herself was selected to represent ESPN Zone after an in-house 8-person round, and began her mixing career while working at the University Club at USC.

"It's about making a dramatic, sweet drink," she said while sipping her winning mix.

The bar wars were set up to give designated drivers an option, set up some friendly competition, and importantly pass out a message about drinking and driving. "It's about keeping your friends and loved ones safe during the holiday season.' Said Pete Moraga of Insurance Information Network.

In 2007, alcohol-related collisions injured 30,783 and took the lives of 1,489 in the State of California. In Los Angeles County alone, 290 people died in alcohol-related accidents.

Nichols remembered Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, who died April 9 when his vehicle was struck by drunken driver. "Had this driver done the right thing, and chosen a designated driver to get home, many lives would be different," said Nichols.

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