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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 6 years ago

Come At Me, Sarasota: State Street Eating House

Watch as we challenge the bar and restaurant's mixologists to a cocktail competition
by: Nick Friedman Managing Editor of Arts and Culture


The times are changing. Gone are the days when whipping up a batch of your famous (read: pre-mixed) margaritas or sloshing out a whiskey and Coke is going to impress your guests.

These days, when it comes to cocktails, craft is king. And bars and restaurants everywhere are taking notice, stocking their shelves with small-batch liquors and hiring dapper mixologists to create innovative original recipes and put twists on the classics.

State Street Eating House, one of the first local establishments to embrace the culture, announced this month plans to lend some if its behind-the-bar knowledge to its customers.

Beginning Saturday, Oct. 24, the bar will host regular mixology classes in its extensive gin library.

Co-owner Chris Voelker says she first came up with the idea after offering mixology lessons for corporate teambuilding exercises.

Topher Nalefski and Alex Mahadevan in heated competition.

“They were so popular that we decided to open them up to the public,” she says. “We’ve had a huge response. I had one woman email me the day I announced it, saying ‘Pick me!’”

State Street mixologist Topher Nalefski will lead the classes.

Each $65 class will include hors d’oeuvres, recipes and three cocktails, and participants will learn from State Street mixologist Topher Nalefski, who hopes to build Sarasota’s reputation for quality libations.

“I used to be a high-volume bartender,” he says. “I dealt with a lot of Jack and Cokes and pitchers of beer. But a couple bars turned me on to drinks like Manhattans and whiskey sours. I started drinking these quality cocktails, and I felt like I could help the industry serve something of quality, instead of just getting people intoxicated.”

Nalefski will teach guests the basics of drink-making, including how to balance flavor profiles using sweet, sour and citrus flavors and the best ways to showcase different types of liquors.

State Street's signature bramble
State Street's signature bramble

“Hopefully, after these classes, people will be able to start looking at the quality inside a cocktail,” he says. “Whether you want to make three gallon of something for a party or just have a cocktail after work, we’re going to show you how to do it.”

This article was written in conjunction with our "Come At Me, Sarasota" series. Got a challenge for us? Email [email protected].

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