Getting Shaken & Stirred at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival

The 34th Annual Scottsdale Culinary Festival began on Tuesday, and we chose to kick the weeklong celebration off the same way we would any soirée -- with a few drinks.

Not your simple liquor-plus-mixer drinks, mind you. There was a time when the cocktail was as essential to living as food, and was made with equal care. In its Culinary Festival debut, Shaken & Stirred worked to capture this bygone era of carefully crafted drinks.

Ably hosted by Scottsdale speakeasy Mabel's on Main, the event featured jazzy tunes, buffet-style edibles and a menu of four complicated cocktails. Like some cruel joke, the $40 entrance fee only got you three drink tickets, but the nearly 100 people packed into the shadowy space didn't seem to mind.

The drinks we tried:

The Crystal Musician (punch) Made with:

  • Campari
  • Skyy Ginger
  • Oleo Sacchrum
  • Lemon juice
  • Maraschino liquer
  • Candied charred lemon

You had me at maraschino liqueur. The balance of sweet cherry and bitter Campari is nice. It started sweet, then ebbed into bitterness. Super drinkable, as a good punch should be.

Uncle Tungsten Made with:

  • Witches Brew-infused Wild Turkey Rye
  • Vanilla simple syrup
  • Angostura Orange bitters

A good orange aroma on this one. The rye, vanilla and orange bitters combine in a smooth, syrupy drink that reminds of a toothpaste I used to use -- orange with a bitter, minty, palate-cleansing kick. This isn't a bad thing.

St. Kitts Cooler Made with:

  • Skyy Coconut
  • Lime juice
  • Lemon juice
  • Velvet Falernum
  • Allspice dram
  • Angostura bitters

If you celebrated Christmas in the Bahamas, this would be the drink. Tart lemon and allspice are the major flavor contributors, but you can pick up tinier, tropical notes in the back -- coconut, velvet falernum. Very tart and refreshing.

Check back for more Scottsdale Culinary Festival coverage throughout the week: 2012 Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

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Editor's Note: Chow Bella's admission to this event was comped by the Scottsdale Culinary Festival.

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