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    Defining a Better Cocktail Experience

    Local mixologist aims to educate, demonstrate and collaborate 

    What cocktails are on the menu for your next event? Will one-of-a-kind libations inspire guest palettes? Will friends or family leave remembering the smooth, natural flavors of the wine served?

    When it comes to parties and events, local mixologist Christine Tarpey says that all too often, the beverage experience takes a backseat to food—and it’s a considerable “miss” on the opportunity scale.

    “The right bar scene can take even the most well-planned events from memorable to extraordinary,” Tarpey said. “Many people simply lack a few contemporary skills that can significantly amp up their beverage offerings.”

    In fact, Tarpey aims to change that dynamic on the Emerald Coast through the introduction of her new company, Better Together Beverage. A boutique education and event company, Tarpey and her colleague, Elizabeth Sinnott-Cameron, are taking their mixology experience and deep knowledge of the beverage industry on the road to conduct classes, consult with restaurants and event planners, and host special events.

    Tarpey learned to love the Emerald Coast when she moved to area at the age of 14. In her mid-twenties, she left for the big-city sights and sounds of Las Vegas and Dallas, where she had the opportunity to hone her mixology skills in some of celebrated metropolitan restaurants and bars. When Tarpey accepted a position at Alys Beach on 30A and returned to the Florida panhandle in 2010, she realized that there was a significant knowledge gap across the region in terms of the latest trends with hand-crafted cocktails and mixology.

    “I started as the maître d’ at Caliza Restaurant and quickly moved into the position of beverage director for the Alys Beach beverage program,” Tarpey said, noting that community’s NEAT bottle shop later became her passion project. “At NEAT, I had the opportunity to work with people in the community and teach them how to use better ingredients in their beverages. We created new cocktails every month and helped customers get out of their comfort zone.”

    Tarpey noted that she enjoys introducing new mixology trends to the Emerald Coast. For example, sustainability is the rage in many big cities as bars try to eliminate waste. One way they bring the green movement into the beverage experience is by recycling lemons and limes that have only been used for their juice. Tarpey explained that a lime shrub can easily be made from lime peels, sugar and a little vinegar—a solution that can make an ordinary vodka tonic exceptional and memorable.

    Today, Tarpey’s services are in demand, whether leading a seminar in a local home or working with local wedding planners. She recently consulted with the owners of Black Bear Bread Company in Grayton Beach to open a natural wine bar. “It’s really exciting because no one is doing that here,” Tarpey said. “It is catching on so fast, and it makes my heart so happy.”

    Notably, Black Bear was recently received a nomination for Best Bar in the south by Southern Living.

    Through Better Together Beverage, she plans to expand to offer various themed event packages that bring a flair of fun and excitement to a bar scene. For example, customers can choose from themes such as Southern Charm, Speakeasy, Glamour and Tiki.

    To bring some refreshment to the August heat along the Emerald Coast, Tarpey offers her original recipe for a Hawaiian Empress:

     

    Hawaiian Empress:

    1.5 oz. Empress Indigo Gin

    2 oz. Fresh Pineapple Juice

    .5 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

    .25 oz. Fresh Orange Juice

    .25 oz. Lemon Oil**

    .25 oz. Orgeat

    -Combine all ingredients (except gin), in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until fully chilled. Pour into a footed glass, slowly pour gin overtop, do not mix. Garnish with a lime wheel and pineapple fronds. Add a Hay Straw to stir, sip, and enjoy!! (It is very important to use fresh fruit juices to captivate the freshness of this thirst quenching libation).

    **Lemon Oil (yields 4 cocktails):

    1 Lemon, zested

    1/2 cup vegetable oil

    -Combine oil and zest in a saucepan, bring to a low simmer, stirring for one minute. Remove from heat, allow mixture to sit for 1-2 hours, strain out zest, store lemon oil in air tight glass jar.

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