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Originally published Monday, August 25, 2014 at 8:02 PM

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Sipping signature cocktails with St. Nick in Seattle

Nicole Brodeur chats with Santa — and other do-gooders — at the Signature Cocktail Contest.


Seattle Times staff columnist

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Oh. Hi, Santa. You know it’s August, right?

“I only work once this time of year,” he told me. “And this is it.”

Saint Nick knows how to pick a good gig. He was holding forth over Thursday’s Signature Cocktail Contest, the “feeder” event for Providence Health & Services’ annual O’Christmas Tree Gala Dinner & Auction to be held in December.

O’Christmas Trees starts with a ballroom of bare trees decorated to within an inch, then auctioned off. It’s one of the major fundraisers for Providence Senior and Community Services, raising about $1 million every year.

The cocktail contest, held at the Columbia Tower Club, was not only a fundraiser but determined what people would be drinking at the December gala.

This being a Christmas cocktail, competing bartenders used hazelnut syrup and candied oranges, cinnamon and pine liqueur and lots of Bombay Sapphire, which sponsored the event.

Chair Patricia Szabo gathered mixologists from some of Seattle’s best restaurants: Josh Batway from Skillet, Leroy Thomas from Rocco’s. Matthew Garvey from Hook & Plow at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront was mixing up “Presents Paradise,” with purées made from fresh cantaloupe and strawberries he found at Pike Place Market that morning.

Judges were Szabo; cocktail queen Kathy Casey; Mark Sexaurer, author of “Aphrodisiacs with a Twist”; and last year’s winner, Atsuko Nagakura, of Shiku Sushi and Cocktail Lounge.

Nagakura may have been dressed in a delicate, red-and-gold silk top, but she was hard core. She took maybe two sips from each glass, swirled the liquid in her mouth, and set it down. Done.

Casey, too, was taking tiny sips and drinking lots of water. In between, she talked beverage trends.

“Ginger everything,” she said. “There’s also a super coconut revival. And ice. It’s all about ice. Crushed, slushy. And bottled cocktails.”

Sexaurer was taking copious notes.

“I am looking for the full package,” he said. “Not just what’s in the cocktail, but what’s outside as well. The demeanor of the bartender. Eyes up. Engaged.”

Chris Sims of The Scotch and Vine in Des Moines was like a carnival barker.

“You need to compete with the big dogs in Seattle,” he said.

Will Holland of Ba Bar just moved back to the States from Australia in April.

“I’m still becoming an American again,” he said.

Two women walked up, sipping another bartender’s concoction.

“What are you doing with that drink in your hand?” Holland asked them. “Get rid of it. You’re here with me now.”

Well then.

Back over by Santa, O’Christmas Trees honorary chair Duell Fisher and Amy Yamada (he of the event photography company Team Photogenic, she the host of “Live at the Trees”) remembered some Christmas trees they’d rather forget.

There was the “Creepy Clown Tree,” decorated top to bottom with, well, you know. Think a Stephen King Christmas.

“It was scaring the children,” said Yamada, a business and lifestyle coach. “The tree designer had to take part of the tree away. He wasn’t very happy about it.”

Fisher, looking at his phone for a photo that, lucky for me, he couldn’t find, nodded along: “It was very scary. I think Laura Oberto bought it.”

In the end, the Most Congenial Mixologist (for the second year in a row) was Colin Jensen of the Columbia Tower Club — talk about a home advantage — whose tip jar was overflowing with dollars (all donated to Providence Senior and Community Services).

The winning cocktail was the “Chimney Slip,” created by Sander Raav of Boka Restaurant + Bar, consisting of Bombay Sapphire gin, blood orange purée, honey syrup, cardamom bitters and a dash of cinnamon.

On my way out, I stopped to check on Santa. There was a line waiting to pose with him, and he had a little sweat on.

He was doing fine, he told me, but he did want to shed one thing: His real name. George Eustice.

He’s been playing Santa for 19 years, and spending his own money to do it, he said. Every dollar he makes goes to the Vashon Island Senior Center.

Good man. Anyone in this cocktailed crowd getting a little, you know ... handsy?

“No,” Santa said. “No such luck.”

Jodi Brothers’ breakout

The end of The Bob RiversShow, and the end of KJR-FM, for that matter (it’s now something called “The Jet”) means a new start for our favorite morning wiseacre, Jodi Brothers.

Not long after the radio station used Rivers’ “stepping back from the mike” as sleight-of-hand for busting up the whole gang and changing formats, The Jet announced that Brothers would be “part of our future morning show.”

Part? Uh-oh. Somebody better tell Brothers.

Because after sitting beside Rivers and, before him, Marty Riemer at KMTT-FM The Mountain (may it rest in peace), as well as in Riemer’s podcast, Brothers is ready to go solo.

Don’t believe me? Take a listen to this little ditty posted on www.frequency.com and sung by the Jersey girl herself:

“The Jodi Show, The Jodi Show, this is now The Jodi Show.

“When I’m the only person here, we call it The Jodi Show.

“I brought my baby, I brought my dog, I brought salad.

“I got bras and panties, too. And I’m a girl and it’s my show. We’re gonna talk about only girl stuff on The Jodi, Jodi Show.”

Babies? Salad? Bras?

Stay tuned.

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.



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About Nicole Brodeur's Names in Bold

On Tuesdays, I tell you about my travels through some of the week's social and philanthropic events — not just the ones for the swells, but those for work-a-day folks who care about making this region move and improve. 206-464-2334

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