Sacramento Cocktail Week 2016

by Brandon Smith

Bathrobe-clad bartenders, a hole-in-one, rum punch, Caribbean jerk chicken, a race against time and brandied cherries. What do all these things have in common? You probably experienced at least one of these things if you attended a Sacramento Cocktail Week event.

As we previously mentioned, Sacramento Cocktail Week is a week-long celebration uniting local bartenders, fine spirits, fresh products and artisan cocktails. Restaurants, bars, bartenders and patrons from around the greater Sacramento area came together to create, celebrate and of course, drink cocktails.

I jumped at the chance to be a part of the action. I had been looking for an excuse to get out and experience more of the incredible bar and craft cocktail scene in Sacramento and cocktail week seemed like the perfect opportunity. I made it a goal to attend at least five Sacramento Cocktail Week events to make the most out of the experience.

Day 1: The Dude Imbibes at Bottle & Barlow

Cocktail week kicked off on Sunday with its first featured event, The Dude Imbibes. The event featured a number of cocktails and food inspired by the Coen Brothers cult classic, The Big Lebowski. White Russians and Sioux City Sarsaparillas (yeah…that’s a good one) were being poured up by two bartenders dressed as The Dude and Walter Sobchak. The Wandering Chef was serving up bowling alley themed classics like bacon burgers, specialty hot dogs and nachos with scratch made cheddar beer sauce. Everything was well thought out and played off the Lebowski theme. If you’ve never seem the film, you’ll just have to take my word for it, man.

Check out the full beverage menu below!

The Dude Imbibes_Page_1

Day 2: Tavern on the Green at Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.

Hook & Ladder hosted the second featured event of the week, The Tavern on the Green. Fellow SacFoodie Harrison and I decided to check this one out after leaving the office Monday afternoon.

Photo Aug 15, 6 11 24 PM

Dog Leg w/ Hendrick’s Gin

The restaurant was converted into a mini golf course with three different putting stations. Each hole had a bartender whipping up specialty cocktails (full menu below). Harrison and I both agree, the Dog Leg with Hendrick’s Gin, Cucumber, Lemon, Rose Water and Q Tonic was the clear winner when it came to the  cocktails offered.

Tavern on the Green Menu Inside_Page_1

Day 3: It Takes Two to Tiki at The Red Rabbit

Most of the Tiki themed drinks at this event featured Rhum Agricole, which I had previously never tried. I’ve since learned that Rhum Agricole is produced straight from sugarcane juice whereas most other rums are produced by fermenting molasses.

Photo Aug 16, 6 54 25 PM

Chance of Light Showers w/ Clément Rhum Agricole

I’m usually not one to order rum but for the sake of going with the theme, I ordered The “Chance of Light Showers” with Clément Rhum Agricole, lime and ginger beer. If you’re into Moscow Mules, this might be your new favorite.

The cocktail experience alone was worth the stop, but what really won me over was the bartending competition going on inside. I passed by the main bar and noticed a large crowd watching two bartenders wearing one shirt at the same time, each using one arm to make and present a signature drink for three judges. I was so intrigued by what was happening, I decided to get a little closer to the action. After a few minutes, I was at the bar sitting right next to the judges who were happy to share the bartenders’ submissions. This was by far my favorite event all week.

Jayson y Fernando

Fernando & Jayson of Bottle & Barlow

Day 4: Sacramento Cocktail Competition at Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub

The Sacramento Cocktail Competition began with a tasting of eight varieties of punch created by the bars represented in the competition. Groups of people flocked from table to table outside on Harlow’s back patio to try the different varieties of punch. I, along with fellow SacFoodies Harrison and Gabby, arrived just a bit too late to taste everything but the one’s we did taste were quite good!


The tasting was followed by a competition between eight different bars from the downtown/midtown area. Each bar was represented by two bartenders who raced against the clock to create four classic cocktails and one drink featuring a mystery ingredient. We couldn’t stay for the entire competition but before we left, we did see pudding cup brought up as one of the mystery ingredients…

Day 5: The Looper at Magpie Café

This was a very low-key, special menu offering from Magpie Café on Friday afternoon. Magpie offered a number of fantastic whiskey-forward cocktails in combination with their own house-made brandied cherries. My favorite was the Napa Sour made with Slaughter House American Whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup and a splash of red wine to finish. Don’t forget the cherry on top.

Napa Sour brightened

Napa Sour w/ Slaughter House American Whiskey

I was also partial to Magpie’s rib eye.

Photo Aug 19, 6 51 03 PM

Final Thoughts:

Sacramento Cocktail Week is something the people of Sacramento should continue to support and help grow in years to come. The people who associate themselves with craft cocktail culture in Sacramento come from all walks of life and truly support the growing cocktail culture in this city. All the events were well planned, engaging and showcased the creativity and passion that these bartenders put into their drinks night after night.

For anyone looking to take a dive into cocktail culture here in town, Sacramento Cocktail Week would be an ideal place to start which, unfortunately, won’t be back for another year. In the meantime, head over to one of the bars and restaurants mentioned in this post and strike up some conversation with the bartender. Chances are they’ll be able to get set you down a path to true Sacramento cocktail greatness.


Bottle & Barlow
1120 R St.
Sacramento, CA 95811

Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.
1630 S St.
Sacramento, CA 95811

The Red Rabbit
2718 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub
2708 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

Magpie Café
1601 16th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814


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