All-Star Mixology Competition Draws Support for Homeless Youth

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Heather McDonald talks to attendees at the All-Star Mixology Competition.

The Skybar at Mondrian Hotel played host to the second annual All-Star Mixology Competition while raising awareness for Covenant House California

On Wednesday night, the luxe Skybar at Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood played host to the second annual All-Star Mixology Competition while raising awareness for nonprofit agency Covenant House California.

Panelists for the spirit tasting and competition included Paul Hanneman (co-president, worldwide film distribution for 20th Century Fox), Jeremy Sisto (Suburgatory, Law & Order) and Heather McDonald (Chelsea Lately, After Lately), with Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark (Tripping Out With Alie and Georgia) and Robert Holguin (ABC 7 Eyewitness News) emceeing the night.

Both McDonald and Ward were already aware of the good that CHC brings to homeless youth in the surrounding neighborhoods, and they themselves were involved with activism before tonight's event. 

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"At my Catholic all-girls high school, Louisville Covenant House was one of our charities [that we supported]," said McDonald. "It's one of those things that has been around for a really long time and has a sterling reputation. It's such a great charity, and I'm so glad to see that it is still thriving."

Ward said she believes youth outreach is not only a valuable asset for the country but also to those individuals.

"Georgia [Hardstark] and I really believe in outreach to youth just because we feel like that's where a lot of our investment should be in terms of charities and in terms of private donations," she said. "Really helping people when they get started is a huge thing, and Covenant House has such a great reputation, they've done such great work and they are such a reliable resource for a lot of kids in need. So we couldn't say no to doing this."

Since 1988, CHC has helped impact the lives of more than 160,000 homeless youth in the Hollywood and Oakland locations, providing housing, medical attention, food services and life skills workshops.

Executive director of CHC, Bill Bedrossian, told The Hollywood Reporter that the support from these events and private donations from the community is what keeps CHC open and thriving.

"We're really excited because we want people to know what's going on in L.A. with homeless youth," he said. "This is a good opportunity for people who don't normally hear about it. Literally right out on the street beside us there are homeless kids, and people just don't know. … It's really important that we have the support of the community to make sure that these kids have a chance to be successful."

With breathtaking views of the greater Los Angeles area as a backdrop and a solid cause behind them, 10 talented mixologists gathered at their stations to create the ultimate cocktail for the thirsty crowds.

One half of the emcee duo, Ward, said a key factor judges should be looking for in each spirit was symmetry of flavors. 

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"First off is balance. I think a great balance between really getting the flavor and the character of the spirit, first and foremost, but also enough sweet, enough sour, enough bitter where you're really not tasting one of those more than the other — that's important," she said. "You really want to look for things you've never tasted before. Spices that are paired with a certain citrus or a tea infusion. Something really interesting."

Following a prejudged first competition, four finalists were then given a secret ingredient (berries) and 15 minutes to create a winning cocktail.

Kristina Howald, bar director at Bestia in downtown Los Angeles, was the night’s winner, paying homage to a classic cocktail at The Clover Club in New York City. Her "balanced, delicious Russian cocktail" made with No. 209 Gin, strawberries, fresh cardamom seeds, egg whites, muddled lemon juice and nutmeg was crowned the all-star.

McDonald told THR she appreciated the performance art the mixologists brought to the table.

"It was really great to hear these presentations from the bartenders who are almost like artists meets scientists meets chefs," she said. "They're taking organic fruits and vegetables that they love and then choosing an alcohol-based drink and then just making incredible creations that you would never think to put together."

Sisto did not name his favorite drink of the tasting but gave a hint as to his favorite spirits and the moods that come with it.

"Vodka if I want to be happy. Whiskey if I want to be brooding," he said.

Sponsors of the event included The Hollywood Reporter (with culture editor Degen Pener as co-chair of the event committee), The Tasting Panel, Delta Air Lines, The Skybar — Mondrian Hotel and Funkin Cocktails.

Proceeds from the All-Star Mixology Competition and silent auction will fund CHC and their current mission.

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