HughE Dillon: Whiskey Festival

Cole Hamels gets out of diaper duty, and two Philly bartenders move on to compete in NYC

At last night’s 2011 Whiskey Festival, held at the Crystal Tea Room in Center City, Michael Goodman, Sean Mandel, Lryna Kliuchko and Dave Abrams enjoyed the Smirnoff Whipped & Fluffed Lounge with its white sofas and dessert bar, complete with a fountain of white chocolate for dipping strawberries, marshmallows and Oreos.

Although the word mixologist has been around since the ’40s, it still comes up as a typo in MS Word, and you won’t find it in the iPhone dictionary. But these days, it does pop up more and more when referencing bartenders throughout the city. Mixologists are the new celebrity chef these days. They are on stage, and people flock to establishments because of their talent—and what goes into their cocktails, down to what kind of ice is going to be used. Below: John Armstrong, of Village Whiskey, pours his drink, “The Tomahawk,” as he participates in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience competition, which was held last night at the festival. Six mixologists participated to win a chance at competing in the national competition in Manhattan next year.

Below: High-profile mixologists Katie Loeb, Christian Gaal and Phoebe Esmon have all won various contests in the past few years. These days Katie and Christian are looking for a place to set up their barware, as Katie has recently left the Oyster House, where she had been for nearly three years, and Christian found himself without a regular gig after Noble became Il Pittore. You might find him making delicious cocktails with Phoebe at the Farmers’ Cabinet on Walnut Street.

Below: Mackenzie Parker, Kristin Conrad and Rachael Masse enjoyed meeting lots of folks who enjoy a good cocktail. The atmosphere was relaxed, and the dress was fashionable. Whiskey drinkers do it in style, although I was surprised there were other choices of drink, too.

Below: Dino Minelli, Kate Eibling and Natasha King, from Veev Spirits, and Zach Seidman and Ryan Dorsey, from the Three Nerds. (I think it’s part of their uniform to wear glasses—good branding), and DJ Adrian Hardy with guest.

Below: Michelle McKeone and Patrick Baynes, co-founder of PeopleLinx. Patrick kept it light last night cause today he’s participating in the 2nd Annual Social Media Plus conference in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Below: Dave Marks, from the Northern Liberties bar North 3rd, pours some Woodford Whiskey into his concoction, “An American Cocktail in Paris,” for Kevin Cluster.

Below: Peter Leontaras, owner of Xochitl, and Sabrina Leontaras told me their favorite cocktail of the night was the Casanova Tequila. They also had a chance to see Fred Noe, the master distiller and great grandson of Jim Beam and Lincoln Henderson, the master distiller of Angel’s Envy.

Below: Cole Hamels asked why I wasn’t at the Jimmy Rollins event on Monday night. “I was there. Where were you?” was my response. He was in one of those beautiful cabanas that was created for the VIPs. No wonder I didn’t see him. He tells me that new baby Braxton is doing well, and he and Heidi are still getting used to the overnight hours. No doubt a lot of planning went into the birth of their off-season sons, as first child Caleb Michael Hamels just recently turned two. Hanging out with Cole were Jim Sheehan and Kevin Baird.

Below: Karim Abdulla and Jina Haynes enjoyed the energy of the event and were looking forward to a delicious tasting of what Ruth’s Chris had to offer as they headed toward the line. Other restaurants providing food included Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, Deterra Restaurant, Wine Bar and Supper.

Below: At the end of the night, the Woodford Manhattan Experience results were announced by Chris Chamberlain, of Capital Wine and Spirits (second from left). The winner of the Peoples Choice and the Judges’ Choice was Colin Shearn, of Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. Coming in a close second was Bob Caskey, of Barclay Prime. Both will be heading up to NYC in January for the national competition. On the left here is David Franke, of Brown-Forman Brands, and on the far right is Carol Drumstas, market manager for PA/East at Brown Forman Beverages.

Below: Kema Fortunato and Nerissa Loren had a great night, and they love the new location. They said that this year’s Whiskey Festival was the best, with the layout easier to navigate. The setting with the dark wood got guests in the spirit of enjoying their favorite cocktails. Their favorite was the Balvenie. Nerissa tells me it’s a 14-year-old whiskey that’s aged in a rum cask, and is smooth and sweet.