However you tailor your cocktails — neat, long, laced or on the rocks — Alison Penland will fix you up. Penland states she became known as "The Charlotte Mixologist" shortly after she began writing a freelance column for Examiner.com about cocktails. Penland says she also belongs to Good Eats and Meets! Charlotte, a social dining group, "and before long, my friends were asking me to create cocktails for their private parties." Penland mixes at various events in the area, including the Lake Norman Booze Cruise (www.kissanchorisland.com), which takes place every Saturday through Labor Day. If you happen to sail this summer, perhaps Penland will help you quench your thirst.
Creative Loafing: What flavorful cocktail hits your sweet spot and which one turns you off?
Alison Penland: With summer in full swing, I'm presently obsessed with my Summer Solstice creation. It's light and refreshing and not so heavy on the calories. Frozen peach bellinis are also a favorite this time of year.
I tend to migrate more toward milder flavored liquors and prefer vodka or tequila. I shy away from some of the harder and darker liquors such as scotch, bourbon, and whiskey because I find the flavor can sometimes overpower the cocktail.
Is there an "in season" for certain cocktails? If cocktail trends change, is it possible that there's also a change in what the different generations are thirsting for?
Cocktails are just like clothes: There's a season for everything, and just when you think it's out of style, it becomes fashionable and all the rage once again.
I believe that marketing has a lot to do with changing trends and what any age group or gender is in the mood for. Alcoholic-energy drinks seem to be getting a lot of publicity these days and are marketed toward the younger generation; as a result, these types of items are popping up in drink repertoires — Red Bull and vodka, for example. Fruity, flavored liqueurs are typically geared toward the female population and pretty much span every age group. The 30-40 age group wants to solidify their identity as drinking sophisticates and therefore tend to order their drinks mixed with higher-end, top shelf alcohols.
You once participated in a cupcake and wine pairing. What additional food and beverage events are you involved with around Charlotte?
The cupcake and wine pairing was presented by Just Baked Cupcakes in Cornelius and Tree House Winery in Monroe, and each sample nicely complimented the other. The decadent cupcakes definitely weren't for the faint of heart on their own but the sweet/tart acidity of the wine balanced them out very nicely.
My involvement with Good Eats and Meets! Charlotte has paved the way for [my ability to participate] in a lot of fun events. Currently, we're working on scheduling time for mixology demonstrations at the next Southern Women's Show, and just recently, we participated in the Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival. We're also gearing up to start our "Mixology 101" bartending series again in the fall. I was invited to attend both the Annual Bartenders Ball and the MartiniFest last year.