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Spirited festival: New Mexico Distillers Guild event features craft liquor, cocktails

Get into the spirit of things during the third annual New Mexico Distillers Guild Festival.

Guests sample spirits and mingle during a New Mexico Distillers Guild Festival previously held at the Banque Lofts. (Courtesy of The New Mexico Distillers Guild)

A number of New Mexico distilleries will participate in the festival on Sunday, Aug. 18. They are Albuquerque’s Blackstar, Broken Trail, Hollow Spirits, La Reforma, Left Turn, Safe House and Troubled Minds, as well as Algodones Distillery of Algodones; Glencoe of Ruidoso, Silver City’s Little Toad Creek; and Santa Fe Spirits in Santa Fe. Vendors also will be selling nonalcoholic drinks and food.

“Every distillery will have samples, so when you buy your ticket, you get in and you get to go to each distillery and say, ‘I want a sample of this,'” said Frank Holloway, event coordinator and owner of Hollow Spirits. “Pretty much all their spirits, their vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, whatever they choose to bring in. Also, a couple of them will have samples of the different cocktails that they make, pre-made cocktails that you can taste kind of what they make at the place.”

Hollow Spirits will be pouring its new Red 96 bourbon.

“The reason we called it Red 96 is because we make it from red corn from Tucumcari and we have it proofed at 96 proof,” Holloway said. “We’re excited about it. It’s our bourbon whiskey, and we’ll have it over there, pouring samples and drinks, because it’s amazing.”

The distilleries will have full-size craft cocktails for purchase. They also will raffle off gift cards and gift baskets. One distillery will give away a stay in Pagosa Springs.

New to this year’s event is a bartender challenge featuring some of the best bartenders in the state creating cocktails using New Mexico-based spirits.

“What we’re going to do is we’re going to have 16 competitors, and they’re going to face off two at a time,” Holloway said. “We will have some judges from the bartending guild, the distillery guild, from the Hyatt Regency and Josh Kennon, (executive chef and owner of Fork & Fig). They’ll be judging it based on presentation, taste, balance. They have a big old list of scoring they will do to see who will move on to the next round.”

Holloway is working on VIP ticketholders being able to sample the drinks that the competing bartenders are making. VIP ticketholders also will receive a discounted night stay at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, where the event is being held, as well as early entry into the festival.

“A lot of those competitions they’re making three drinks for the judges and people are kind of standing around going that looks really good but they can’t taste it,” Holloway said. “So we’re actually making it so that the VIP people can actually taste the drinks for the bartending competition. It won’t be a drink each, but it will be like a little sip, or we might put little samples so they know why these are amazing bartenders.”

The festival has expanded, and the decision was made to move the location from the Banque Lofts rooftop in Downtown Albuquerque to the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque.

“It was starting to grow more and more,” Holloway said. “We definitely needed a location that was a little bit bigger. The Hyatt has been amazing in supporting local spirits and also because the time of the year that we do it is monsoon season. The past two years it’s rained all the way up until the start of the festival, and then luckily it cleared up.”

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