Dry Ice & Jet Planes

Hunting & Gathering


The backdrop of a Florida fall sunset amongst a fleet of jetliner aircrafts posted on the tarmac of the Universal Flight Training Center set the scene for a stellar event. Hosted by the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, the 2019 "Set The Bar" competition brought the heat with a star studded lineup of 20 leading mixologists representing local member restaurants. A-games were brought—each booth crafting not only wild cocktails, but a show to wow the participating public and the esteemed panel of judges. 

Four spirits—vodka, gin, whiskey and tequila—marked each of the four designated competition categories, with the fifth category belonging to the coveted People’s Choice Award. Spencer Taliaferro of MADE Restaurant, caught the eyes and noses of both the judges and attendees with his fog-fueled concoction called Kane & Friends. After familiarzing yourself with Hawaiian mythology, you come to learn the name is inspired by four major Hawaiian gods (Kane, Ku, Kanaloa and Lono).

“The inspiration for creating a Bourbon Mai Tai all stemmed from living here in Sarasota,” he shares. “I wanted to create a cocktail experience which brings in the dry ice activated aroma. The aroma sets the tone for the tropics. We live in a beautiful area with amazing weather. I wanted to create a cocktail that still allowed the bourbon to shine through but can be had anytime and anywhere no matter the temperature.”

With a killer presentation to match his island-inspired cocktail, Taliaferro encouraged tasters to experience cocktails with all the senses. Upon throwing in a handful of dry ice inside his stainless steel shaker, the nose is the first to pick up the herbal and citrus notes radiating from the liquid inside, which at this point are releasing a cloud of water vapor and the elements within the recipe. By doing so, the first sip distinctly brings out the essence of every ingredient. 

The event came to a close as the sun set, and the night sky revealed the blinking lights of the aero obstruction tower beacon. Votes were set, decisions were made, bellies were full and winners were announced:

Plymouth Gin Category - The Fashion Forward by Jen MacDonald from The Sandbar Restaurant

ABSOLUT ELYX Vodka Category - The element Elyxer by Mani Gonzalez & AJ Smithingell from Element: Modern Mediterranean Grill

Olmeca Tequila Altos Plata -The Desert Pear by Mitch Patmagrian from Jack Dusty Coastal Cuisine and Crafted Cocktails

Smooth Ambler Spirits Contradiction Bourbon Whiskey Category & People's Choice Winner - Kane & Friends by Spencer Taliaferro from Made Restaurant

“I really enjoyed competing against the best restaurants in Sarasota,” Taliaferro says. “'Set The Bar' is such a great event because it bridges the gap between your local bartender and a community that is quickly becoming excited about the cocktail movement here in Sarasota.”

Kane & Friends 

— 1.5oz Smooth Ambler Bourbon 

— 1 oz House Made Orgeat (Almond Based Syrup) 

— 1 oz Fresh Pressed Lime 

— .75 oz Giffard Orange Curacao 

Garnished with a dehydrated, sustainable pineapple and Local Tea Co. aronia tea (an aromatic garnish activated by dry ice)


Pictured: Spencer Taliaferro setting the bar with his winning cocktail currently available at MADE. Photos courtesy of Evan Sigmund Photography.

List of Participating Restaurants at 2019 Set The Bar

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