Designers put their Mixology Skills to the Test at Studio BeckerAuthor:Mary Jo Bowling
James Hunter, principal at The Wiseman Group, has been winning the interior design game for years. But on July 12 in San Francisco, he walked away with another distinction: As the champion of the third annual California Home+Design Designer Mix-Off. His cocktail, The Summer of Love Negroni, wowed the crowd with a blend of gin, vermouth, Campari and a spray of edible flowers.
The event happened at Studio Becker, a luxury showroom displaying examples of their high-end cabinetry in several demonstration kitchens, wine cellars and closets. The game itself was simple: Designers stationed themselves in a number of the Studio Becker kitchens to mix up cocktails inspired by their sponsor’s products. Party-goers voted by giving a token to their top two drinks. Competitors included: Jaimie Belew (Jaimie Belew Interior Design) and FM Distributing/Neolith; Jon de la Cruz (De la Cruz Interior Architecture + Design) and Caesarstone; James Hunter (The Wiseman Group) and California Home+Design; Antonio Martins (Antonio Martins Interior Design) and Cosentino and Will Wick (Wick Design) and Studio Becker.
Jon de la Cruz concocted a vibrantly colored “Rose Quartz,” inspired by Caesarstone
Contestant Jon de la Cruz
Contestant Antonio Martins
Antonio Martins used Brazil and Cosentino as his inspiration for the Strawberry Capi
Contestant Will Wick stirring up the “Willy’s War Cry,” a cocktail made in the style of Studio Becker
Perhaps it wasn’t just what was in the glass that snagged Hunter and his team the victory, they came dressed to win, with each Wiseman Group employee (including Layne Varholdt and Chase Roberson) dressed in classic Summer of Love style—including fringed vests, headbands and faux mustaches. Hunter himself was clad in a paisley-patterned shirt and pants and a long, purple feather boa. He made use of the latter when he hopped atop a counter at Studio Becker and shook his groove thing until the votes were tallied.
Emcee Mary Jo Bowling, Winner James Hunter, Jaimie Belew
Hunter says that mixing a drink is not that much different from designing a home. “A Negroni takes three main ingredients: Gin, vermouth and Campari,” he says. “Good design also takes three ingredients: money, taste and time!” His winning concoction was inspired by Italy where he lived as student and where the Negroni was born. His own version marries the spirit of San Francisco with the classic cocktail.
The Wiseman Group
Jaimie Belew came within a single vote of tying Hunter. Belew was inspired by Neolith’s Strata Argentum, a surface with delicate tones of sage and cream. Using the colors, she invented the Lady Lavender cocktail. She mixed heavy cream, vodka and lavender honey and then topped it with sage and lavender blossoms to make the dessert-like drink. “I added lavender because it’s the perfect complement to sage and cream,” she says. “Not only does the drink leave traces of lavender essence in your mouth as you sip, it makes the house smell amazing as you prepare it!” Belew also dressed the part in a lavender striped blouse; and the team from FM Distributing (the exclusive Neolith distributor in the West) backed her up in gray and purple shirts emblazoned with the drink’s name.
Jaimie Belew’s outfit was inspired by her elegant drink, “Lady Lavender.” The drink itself was sparked by Neolith’s Strata Argentum.
The Studio Becker team hosted the event; Harald Vaernes, Robert Templon, Nils Hopfmann, Fernanda Duarte, Liz Luna, Ham Li, Daniel Lappa, Jasper Bute
Annie Osborne, Jennifer Jones, Lynn Trinh, Courtney Roth
Jon de la Cruz says that Caesarstone inspired his Rose Quartz cocktail because it’s “…strong, pretty, effervescent and smoky all at once.” His drink used a mix of gin, mezcal, aperol and prosecco with grapefruit for a drink that’s just right for the season. “I thought the icy cocktail would be perfect for summer,” he says. “And I’m currently obsessed with aperol and grapefruit combinations.”
Jon de la Cruz, Ramon Antu and Miguel Thurston from Caeserstone
The designer offered a practical piece of advice to the crowd sampling the drinks. “I think the best hangover cure is the Bloody Mary at Zuni Café,” he says.
Antonio Martins, Kate Webster, Candace Barnes
Antonio Martins returned to the contest as the defending champion. This year, his drink was inspired by Brazil, his home country, and Cosentino, a distributor of surfaces who just opened a new showroom in the San Francisco Galleria. “My drink, the Strawberry Capi, is strong like Cosentino’s surfaces!” Martins said. The designer created his own version of the Caipirinha, a cocktail he terms the “national drink of Brazil.” In the Strawberry Capi, vodka is paired with strawberries, lime and vodka to make a refreshing, pink-hued drink.
Will Wick stirred up the eponymous Willy’s War Cry in his bid to win the title. Like the products from his sponsor, Studio Becker, the drink is carefully assembled by hand with fine ingredients. In this case, he used ramazotti amaro, aperol, pineapple soda and mint to create a refreshing cocktail. “It’s also inspired by a drink I had in Mexico City recently,” he says. “It is a beautiful cocktail, summery yet complex.” Wick claims he came by his cocktail prowess honestly; “I come from a long line of whiskey and bourbon makers,” he says. “They would be disappointed I didn’t use either in my cocktail tonight.”
Kendra Rivera, Jose Pacheco
Victor Hinojos from Cosentino
Harald Vaernes, Guest, Jaimie Belew, Kelly Stucker, Robert Templon
Even after the winner was announced and the bars were packed away, the crowd lingered before spilling out into the unseasonably warm San Francisco evening. “I love this party,” one to the party-goers said. “It’s so much more fun than the usual design event.”
Penny Chen, Lilley Yee
Kalyee Winworth, Jeff Sclarb, Brian Andrews
Gerson Costa, Fred Girodat
Look at the designers’ shopping lists and mix your own!
Antonio’s Strawberry Capi
Lime, cut into wedges
Fine white sugar
(Jaimie Belew/FM Distributing, Neolith)
1 1/2 oz. Absolute Vodka
1 oz. Organic heavy cream
1 oz. organic egg white
1 oz. Lavender Honey Syrup
Garnish with fresh sage and lavender sprig
The Summer of Love Negroni
(James Hunter/California Home+Design)
One part gin
One part vermouth rosso (red-semi-sweet)
One part Campari
Garnished with orange peel
Served on the rocks
(Jon de la Cruz/Caesarstone)
1/2 oz. No. 209 Gin
1/2 oz. Mezcal
1 oz. Aperol
1 oz. grapefruit (or a 50/50 grapefruit lemon mix)
Grapefruit twist and mint leaf garnish
Served on ice
Willy’s War Cry
(Will Wick/Studio Becker)
Ramazotti Amaro 1oz.
Pineapple Soda to top
Spring of mint
Served with crush ice
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