Competition creates cocktails for a cause

Bartender Mix Off will raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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Bartender Mix Off
7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Pistol Pete’s,140 Harrison Ave., Auburn
Cost: $20 ($15 at
Info: (530) 217-3520,
Entertainment by Low Brow and DJ Rob Town
Why: Proceeds benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to help locals affected by the blood cancer
The Club Car and Rockin’ Rob’s Pizza and Wings will also donate a portion of their proceeds from that evening to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Competitors include:
Auburn Alehouse

289 Washington St., Auburn ,, (530) 885-2537
Club Car
836 Lincoln Way, Auburn, (530) 887-9732
Dingus McGee’s
14500 Musso Road, Auburn ,, (530) 878-1000
5530 Douglas Blvd. Granite Bay, (916) 791-6200,,
Pistol Pete’s
140 Harrison Ave., Auburn, (530) 885-5093

How often can you belly up to the bar while helping your fellow man?
If you’ve longed for the day when you can frequent your favorite watering hole, knock back a cocktail (or five) and feel like you’ve done some good, well, that time has come. If you buy a ticket to Thursday night’s Bartender Mix Off, the money will go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“We are doing a huge campaign for the Man of the Year competition. This is one of our last events and one of our biggest events,” said Allison Harvey, chief of staff for ‘Gift 4 A Cause.’ “We not only name the best bartender but we show people from Sacramento what the Foothill region is all about, our amazing restaurants and bars.”
And our residents, apparently, as Auburn’s Garth Brooks has been nominated to represent the Sacramento area chapter in the Man of the Year competition, a national 10-week campaign to raise funds to help find cures for blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life for patients and their families.
So what exactly is a mix off?
In this case, five bartenders, each sponsored by a local establishment, are allowed to craft creative cocktails to promote their bar. Those who purchase a ticket to the event will be able to sample the five concoctions and pick a favorite based on uniqueness, presentation and taste.
Jeff Biggar will be representing Dingus McGee’s at the Mix Off.
“I like these things, they’re fun,” he said. “And they’re for a good cause.”
It’s not the first contest for Biggar, who competed in several while tending bar in San Francisco and Walnut Creek.
“It’s part of being a bartender for 15 years,” he said. “I’ll actually be using the drink I got second place with 10 years ago in a Vox Vodka competition. The presentation beat me last time. I was second out of 150.”
So for whatever it lacked in appearance it must have made up for in originality and flavor.
“The longer you do this, you can kind of tell what’s going to taste good with something else,” he said. “Let’s just say as a candy, there’s red and black. In alcohol, there’s only black. Mine’s the other. I just made one for the owner and he’s flipping out about it. He said ‘If I saw that on menu I’d order one out of curiosity.’”
Sarah Nolivo, owner of the Club Car on Lincoln Way, will be sending her chief mixologist, Alison Crouson, to the competition.
“She puts together unique flavor profilers and makes her own simple syrups and liquor infusions. She’s been with us on and off for seven years and has developed a lot of our specialty cocktails.”
And what might she be pouring on Thursday night? Well, for that you will have to show up, because Crouson was not ready to reveal her recipe.
“I’ve been preparing since last week,” she said. “I’ve put in lots of R&D time.”
While contestants are judged on uniqueness, they also don’t want to jeopardize the taste.
“Ultimately simplicity is best,” she said. “Multiple ingredients are fine if they blend well and complement each other. But when you are trying to please a lot of different people, it’s easier to do a simple drink, play off an old classic drink and modernize it. If you can do fresh ingredients it makes a huge difference.”
For presentation, she said color will catch a person’s eye, a unique candy or an orange peel to adorn the glass. And bacon, believe it or not, is gaining ground as a garnish.
Vegetarians would need to pass on that one, but those who do not drink alcohol need not skip this event. In addition to the Mix-Off, there will be non-alcoholic beverages for sale, a silent auction, a live band and a DJ. And don’t forget, the money earned will help those in your community.
“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society chapter we donate to benefits the greater Sacramento region. Anyone with any type of blood cancer to this chapter to assist with out-of-pocket medical costs,” Harvey said.
The Club Car will also donate 20 percent of their proceeds from that evening to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Rockin’ Rob’s Pizza and Wings, next door to Pistol Pete’s, will also donate a portion of their proceeds.
Reach Features Editor Paul Cambra at