Mixology Event Draws Hundreds to Orinda for Creative Cocktails

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
Top winner Mixologist of the Year, Cynthia Songco from Casa Orinda, made the winning cocktail titled “Henny Penny” at table 13 at the 9th Annual Mixology event.

    Over 200 guests attended the 9th Annual Mixology event sponsored by the Lamorinda Arts Council at Orinda Theatre Square on Oct. 22.
     Member Shelly Rose said, “This is the largest fundraiser for our organization and we love having the opportunity to bring our community together for this unique event.”
    Both professional and amateur bartenders created luscious craft cocktails as the audience and judges sampled and voted for their favorites.  
    The Mixologist of the Year went to Cynthia Songco from Casa Orinda with a drink titled “Henny Penny.” 
    “This Is for My Peaches” earned second place for Brandon Blackman of Night Owl in Castro Valley, while third place went to Katie Gazay from the Forge in Oakland. Her drink is called “Gardens of the Galaxy.”
    Songco, who joined the Casa Orinda team in January 2020, had a setback due to the pandemic, but that roadblock gave her time to put her creativity into action.
    “COVID-19 hit, so I was out of work for two years,” she said. “During that time, I had to find a way to make money. So, I pressed fresh juices and sold batch cocktails by word of mouth. This brought out the creative side of me. I tried lots of different types of drinks. Though I was surprised to learn that Claudia Tata of Casa Orinda had entered me, I thought, ‘Why not try?’”
    Deciding on a fall cocktail, Songco began experimenting.
    “I tried different syrups – fig, apricot, beet and persimmon. Not getting the flavor I wanted, I tried a cranberry compote, and it was fantastic,” said Songco. “Its ingredients are cinnamon, star anise, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla and cranberries. I figured it would be a crowd pleaser since Thanksgiving and other holidays are upcoming.” 
    Songco next used Rittenhouse Rye 100 proof Whiskey for a reason.
    “I needed the high proof so the compote wouldn’t overpower the whiskey,” she said. “Something was missing, and then I came up with whiskey sour. I decided to add ginger syrup for spice. This was the missing secret ingredient I was looking for! After playing with ratios for two days before the competition, I felt I had it. The complexity and balance were right on.”
    Songco is happy to share her recipe for “Henny Penny.”

    1.75 oz. – Rittenhouse Rye
    1/2 oz. Cranberry compote
    3/4 oz. – Lemon juice
    3/4 oz. – Simple syrup
    1/2 oz. – Egg whites
    Dehydrated Cranberry Sprinkle
    Dehydrated Orange Wheel

    Patrons from all over the Bay Area came to support the local restaurants and bars while also supporting local artists and arts programs. 
    Attendee Ibis Schlesinger said she’s attended every Mixology event since it’s inception.
    “The drinks the mixologists serve are incredibly inventive,” she said. “An added plus is the great food our local restaurants provide. It’s a thrill to be part of this community that showcases creativity.”

Bobbie Dodson can be reached at bobbiedodson109@gmail.com.

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
Over 200 guests attended the 9th Annual Mixology event, held at Orinda Theatre Square on Oct. 22, where both professional and amateur bartenders created luscious craft cocktails as the audience and judges sampled and voted for their favorites.

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