Appetizers
January 21, 2010
State department holds drink contest, urges drivers to stay sober

This story has been updated from it's original version.

The California Office of Traffic Safety is holding a drinking contest.

Sort of.

The state department, which administers grant funding to reduce traffic deaths and injuries, is holding the final stage of its non-alcoholic "mocktail" drink contest today at Grange Restaurant in Sacramento.

The contest began in mid-December, when the department launched a Facebook site that included an interactive application soliciting mocktail recipes from Facebook fans statewide.

The recipes are hoped to provide designated drivers with interesting, delicious drinks that allow them to feel included in the party.

"Driving drunk is a problem, but at the same time we don't want people to not have a good time," said Chris Cochran, the department's spokesman. "We're not anti-alcohol, we're anti alcohol plus driving."

In less than a month, the Facebook site attracted more than 1,000 fans and officials received about 40 non-alcoholic drink recipes, he said.

Cochran, along with other staffers - including one that is a former bartender - was tasked with narrowing the list.

"We were looking for things that are new and different and had something unique about them that hadn't been seen before," he said.

Two entries emerged as finalists: Kimberly Beck's "Green Meenie Martini" and Erika Penzer Kerekes' "Minty Pink Sparkler."

Follow the link below to read more about the contest.

Kerekes' mocktail is a dressed-up version of her family's summer staple: watermelon juice. Kerekes, of Santa Monica, buys small seedless watermelons and purees them in a blender with lime, a hit with her two children.

"I love the clean taste of watermelon, and when you marry it with mint and a squeeze of lime, the flavor is really amplified," she wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

Kerekes, who has a food blog and a column in the LA Cooking Examiner, said the contest was a perfect fit.

"I'm not much of a drinker and always end up the designated driver when we go out, so I love creating fancy non-alcoholic drinks," she said.

Beck, a teacher in Modesto, is always talking to students about not drinking and the dangers of drinking and driving.

"I want them to know that there are ways to have fun without alcohol and certainly making tasty non-alcoholic drinks is one way to do just that," she wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

The inspiration for Beck's drink came from a girlfriend who had already entered the contest and suggested Beck use basil, mint and lemon in a mocktail.

"I have these ingredients in my garden," she said. "I went ahead and made one and added fresh ginger (the meenie). Wow it was so unique, refreshing and made me feel good."

The two drinks will be mixed up by a Grange bartender and judged on creativity and taste.

Judges include Christopher J. Murphy, director of the Office of Traffic Safety, Jay Johnston, Grange's beverage manager and Courtney Dempsey, a reporter for "Good Day Sacramento."

The winner receives a two-night stay at a Joie de Vivre hotel.

The contest is open to the public and will be held at 4:15 p.m. today at Grange Restaurant, 926 J Street.

Check back here later today for contest results.

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