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Masks Off: Maker’s Mark Masked Bartender Event Provided Laughs, Drinks & $20,000 in Donations

Yesterday evening, Maker’s Mark gave 2020 Tales of the Cocktail participants an entertaining break from what’s become our “new normal.”

Hosts Megan Breier and Alex Negranza curated a panel of four bar professionals to make cocktails for an online audience. However, the Maker’s Mark team put a tantalizing twist on the event.

The hosts also dressed up!

Megan Breier is one of the Villains’ absolute favorite people. Anyone who has been lucky/smart enough to attend an educational-but-entertaining event she’s hosting knows firsthand that there’s always a hook, something that pulls you in.

You know if she’s hosting something and you don’t go, you’re missing out. Whether the concept was hers from the ground up or she just added some polish, you can be assured of the following:

  • You’re going to learn something new no matter how much you think you already know.
  • Megan is endlessly creative, so even a “simple” theme or event is going to be wild.
  • She’ll have the entire room or venue wrapped around her finger in mere moments.
  • You’re going to hear one of the best laughs on the planet, and Megan’s going to make you laugh with her.

I don’t know Alex Negranza. But I know that if Megan wanted to host an event with him, he’s great people. Here’s to attending more events he hosts in the future.

The Masked Bartender

Megan and Alex hosted “Maker’s Mark Masked Bartender,” a creative riff (here’s the twist) on The Masked Singer. The Cat, Election Dave (a horse), La Catrina (an elegant woman symbolizing Day of the Dead), and the Peacock were tasked with making cocktails for an online audience.

However, there was another twist: the drinks—and some additional details given throughout the event—provided clues about each panelist. Throughout Maker’s Mark Masked Bartender, the audience was sent polls and asked to guess the identities of those making the cocktails.

I say “panelists” and not “contestants” because each one was a winner: Maker’s Mark is donating $5,000 to the foundation, organization or charity of each participant’s choosing.

The Organizations

Four excellent organizations were selected and will be receiving healthy donations from Maker’s Mark.

The Cat, who hails from Cincinnati, chose Over-the-Rhine Foundation. OTRF is a non-profit dedicated to developing Over-the-Rhine into a diverse community and developing the neighborhood using sustainable and responsible methods.

Election Dave—the unofficial winner of the Best Name Award from me—supported Support Staff. This Chicago-based organization consists of a community of hospitality pros and mental health professionals. Their mission is to advocate for hospitality pros in Chicago to “break down the stigmas surrounding mental health, give employers tools to better support their employees, and give hourly employees tools to better advocate for their well-being.”

La Catrina from Houston, TX, made the All Souls’ Day cocktail and selected Southern Smoke. This charitable organization provides emergency financial assistance to F&B workers. Southern Smoke has distributed well over $4 million since they were founded in 2017.

The Peacock, who plunged the event’s chat function into chaos, chose Seattle Hospitality Emergency Fund. This charity, which was established once the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, provides hospitality workers in the Greater Seattle Metro area the funds to help cover rent, utilities, groceries, gas, household supplies, medicine, and health insurance or COBRA payments. According to a message on their site, applications for assistance have outpaced their available funds, so they’re struggling. If you can make a donation, please consider doing so.

The Panelists & Their Drinks

All four of the Masked Bartenders were given the green light to make any cocktail. The only requirement was that each panelist feature a Maker’s Mark product. They all chose Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, and who could blame them? When you have the chance to drink Cask Strength, you go for it.

The Cat made the Police Gazette, a classic whiskey cocktail that dates back to 1901. The mention of the Cat’s hometown of Cincinnati and historic detail of the drink gave her away: Molly Wellmann!

Along with having the coolest character name, Election Dave killed it with the cocktail name: The Season Finale of 2020 is an Election. This Mint Julep riff was created by Kristina Magro a.k.a. Election Dave and featured cranberry-infused Demerara sugar. Along with making a great drink, Kristina implored everyone to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Remember how I said anyone who attends an event hosted by Megan Breier will learn something? La Catrina’s cocktail, All Soul’s Day, is made with marigold syrup. This 2:1 syrup (the ratio gives it body) features actual dried marigold flowers. La Catrina, who was revealed to be Alba Huerta, explained that when dry, marigolds impart spice notes. I had no idea.

The Peacock used housemade kokum syrup in the Train Rattle cocktail, which was a big clue. The dramatic and hilarious mask removal revealed the Peacock was Anu Apte. She also claimed Crowd Favorite for, according to Megan, “shaking that tail feather.”

Call me greedy but I hope the Maker’s Mark team, Megan and Alex have something else up their sleeves. We can all use a break and an excuse to come together, even if it’s only for an hour.

Oh, and remember to vote in November. Make sure you’re registered to vote—it takes just 30 seconds.

Main and recipe images: Maker’s Mark. Screenshots taken by the author.

David Klemt View All

I’ve been studying and writing about the hospitality industry since 2006. Like so many people, I started my journey in this business by working as a host, server and bartender. I was introduced to nightlife in Chicago, learning the ins and outs of nightclubs and after-hours hot spots.

After moving to Las Vegas nearly 20 years ago, I both co-owned a valet company and helped promote the club it serviced. That led to me taking on the role of editor for a Las Vegas hospitality industry publication.

A few short years later, I continued along my journey of hospitality industry reporting. I went from contributing to a major industry outlet to taking on the role of editor and content curator.

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