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Sips and Sweets 2016: Meet The Bartenders And Get The Stories Behind Their First Cocktails

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Got plans this Saturday? Well, you do now. This Saturday, June 25, is New Times' first-ever Sips and Sweets, a new event that offers cocktails and desserts from some of the best chefs, confectioners, bakers, and mixologists in this town. 

We've already introduced you to this year's participating sweet-makers, and today we're back to help you get to know the folks who will be providing the sips at the event. We also asked them to share the story of their first cocktail — be it the first one they drank or the first they created. 

Titus Fauntleroy, St. Francis

Titus Fauntleroy is a fan of Phoenix's local community. He loves to innovate when it comes to both his drinks and his personal style. Music, style, and art are some of the main themes that drive him and his craft.

"[My] first cocktail experience was having a French 75 at the Vig. This is where my love for champagne and elderflower liquors started."

Libby Longlott, The Bee's Knees

Originally from Pennsylvania, Libby Longlott’s bartending career started at a popular night club while attending college outside of Pittsburgh. Since then, her passion for the industry has taken her around the Valley, beginning with the opportunity to tend bar at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale and then at The Parlor in Phoenix, where she discovered her passion for craft bartending. Longlott is currently the lead mixologist at The Camby Hotel. She has a background in fashion merchandising and marketing and experience as a freelance stylist in fashion, interiors, floral design, and event coordination. 

"It’s almost impossible to remember the first 'craft' cocktail I ever made, but I clearly remember lighting Bacardi 151 for Flaming Dr. Pepper bombs in college. Yuck!"

Gavin Pena, The Dust Cutter (coming November 2016)

Gavin Pena tends bar at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown and the soon-to-open The Dust Cutter Bar. Pena was born and raised in downtown Phoenix.

"I've had plenty of 'cocktails,' but the first cocktail that really drove me into this profession was The Last Word. It's bright, citrusy, [and] yet the viscosity of the green chartreuse gives it depth and adds a little sweetness. A complex but balanced cocktail."

Eddie Garcia, Jade Bar at Sanctuary

A proud native of Tucson, Eddie Garcia is the bar manager and lead mixologist of Jade Bar at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa. Garcia started his bartending career at Nola’s at Biltmore Fashion Park in 1992.. In 2009, he helped open Classics with a Twist at Gila River Casino at Wild Horse Pass, and in 2013 he set his sights on Jade Bar and has been there ever since. 

"The story is actually pretty embarrassing. In 2010, I was asked to be part of the Tanqueray 10th anniversary celebration that was put on by Layla Linn of Alliance Beverage, who I am forever grateful to for inviting me and also showing interest in my career. There were only 10 of us chosen. I thought I was a pretty big deal. There were some heavy hitters there that night [including] Micah Olson, Rich Heider, [and] I think Richie Moe was there. These were guys that had a handle on making a cocktail. As for me, although at the time I was behind the bar for 18 years (when those guys were still in grade school or even younger), when it came to understanding the mixology side I was brand new. So here I was getting ready to mix it up with some of the best, and my drink consisted of Tanqueray 10, Captain Morgan, maple syrup, and orange juice. It was horrible. Of course at the time I thought it was good, and my drunkard friends kept telling me how it was the best drink there. All in all, ignorance is bliss, and it was a great baptism into the great cocktail culture we have here."

Micah Olson, Crudo

Micah Olson is the award-winning mixologist and certified sommelier behind two of the Valley’s top drinking destinations, Bar Crudo and Okra Cookhouse & Cocktails. Olson pairs bold, fresh herbs with his own house-made syrups and house-infused spirits, and curates cocktail menus replete with ever-changing modern creations and perfectly executed classics. 

"My first cocktail that was put on a list was a gin and tonic variation that included blueberries, lemon, and tarragon. It ended up winning Arizona's best Tanqueray and tonic competition. If the question is actually asking what the first cocktail I ever drank was, it was a fuzzy navel when I was around 10. Still have fond memories of that drink."

Dwayne Allen, The Breadfruit & Rum Bar 

Dwayne Allen is director of spirit program and a co-owner of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar in downtown Phoenix. He hails from the rum country of Jamaica — and some even say the sugarcane spirit courses through his veins. Obviously that's not true, but Allen does fancy himself a bit above novice when it comes to knowing a thing or two about rum.    

"My first cocktail was the daiquiri. On the surface, it's a simple cocktail with only three ingredients, but when made correctly, it's a stunning libation. I'm still studying to someday master this cocktail."

Brandon Casey, The Ostrich 

Brandon Casey is a trained anthropologist, but fell in love with tending bar while working his way through school. Born and raised in Tempe, Casey left the Valley of the Sun briefly to work in Alaska as a whitewater river raft guide. He was named Best Bartender in Phoenix in 2014 and has participated in many competitions, though his most proud accomplishment is being selected for the Raise a Glass program with the Smithsonian Institute. Former beverage director of Citizen Public House and The Gladly, he is now the beverage director for Crust Restaurant Group and founder of The Ostrich in downtown Chandler.

"The first real cocktail I ever had — that I would put into the realm of 'real' drinks — was Richie Moe's Im-Port at Citizen Public House, before I started working there. Jameson, tawny port, leather and tobacco bitters, Guinness foam with a smoked sugar rim. Just thinking about that [makes] me thirsty. He offered me a job a week after the first time I ever went in there."

New Times' Sips and Sweets will be held at The Vintage 45 on Saturday, June 25, from 3 to 6 p.m. General admission tickets cost $25 in advance or $35 at the door and include entry; unlimited sweets samples; 10 samples of cocktails, beer, and wine; and access to the handcrafted vendor village.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Sips and Sweets website

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