Chef Michael Solomonov sips a mocktail of his own making

Michael Solomonov of Zahav was part of Pass the Cocktail at Proof on King Street on Thursday, March 1, 2018. Chefs, pitmasters, winemakers and artisans were asked to make cocktails or mocktails to specifications provided by previous participants. File/Jess Marie Spence/Special to The Post and Courier

You can take the liquor out of a bartender’s arsenal but you can’t take away their competitive spirits.

Cocktail Club on Tuesday night is hosting the final round of a mocktail competition sponsored by Ben’s Friends, the support group for food-and-beverage industry workers dealing with substance abuse and addiction. Ben’s Friends was founded by Charleston Grill general manager Mickey Bakst and restaurateur Steve Palmer, who owns Cocktail Club.

According to Bakst, 26 local bartenders entered the contest. Six finalists will be revealed Tuesday and tasked with making their entries for attendees. The winner will receive a $1,000 Uber gift card.

Bakst’s current favorite mocktail is the Charleston Grill’s Bold Fashioned. Created by Justin Razza, the drink consists of cranberry juice, simple syrup, bitters and muddled oranges.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” Bakst said, adding, “I don't say that because of Justin. For me in a mocktail, as a rule, I like a little fruitiness, some effervescence and nothing too sweet.”

Palmer is partial to O-Ku’s Cherry Yuzu Soda, made from cherries, yuzu juice and soda. In other words, it meets Bakst’s criteria precisely.

“Pretty good,” he ruled.

Supported by liquor giant Brown Forman, the mocktail competition is free to attend, although Ben’s Friends will accept donations and sell raffle tickets. The event runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Ben’s Friends local chapter holds weekly meetings on Sundays at 11 a.m. at The Cedar Room. For more information, go to

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

Food editor and chief critic

Eating all of the chicken livers just as fast as I can.