It took just 20 minutes of wandering through the various botanical wonderlands of Lotusland for the garden’s events coordinator Patrick Reynolds — who’s also the renowned mixologist behind the long-running Farm to Bar series at the Wildcat — to find enough ingredients for an afternoon cocktail. Dragon fruit from the cactus zone, Meyer lemon and variegated pink lemon from the citrus garden, hummingbird sage from the insectary, strawberry guava from the tropical corner — combined with gin, these elements made for a subtly sweet, texturally creamy, tiny-bit-tart beverage called the Dragon’s Harvest, which I sipped while retracing Reynolds’ steps to the source of each.
We’d met to talk about the Spirit of Lotusland, the second annual cocktail competition that comes to the garden on Saturday, October 28. I was a judge in last year’s inaugural edition and found the event to be a thoroughly engaging bartender showdown. Each booze wizard is challenged to make a drink that best showcases their assigned section of Lotusland — from bromeliad to fern to cycad to topiary, and so forth — while using fruits, herbs, and other exotic edibles that come from throughout Lotusland. Into that formula came a casually flowing entourage of imbibers led by us judges, and we all experienced cross-sensory bliss, with taste buds, eyes, ears, noses, and even fingertips fully enthralled.
This year’s contest adds a layer of food complexity to the mix, as the competing businesses — the returning champ Alcazar/Milk & Honey as well as Bobcat Room/Little Kitchen, The Imperial, The Lark, Les Marchands, and Loquita — must also provide a bit of food to complement their cocktail. It all finishes with live music and more food on the main lawn, where this year’s judges will crown the Spirit of Lotusland victor.
Spirit of Lotusland takes place Saturday, October 28, 3-5 p.m., at Ganna Walska Lotusland (Cold Spring Rd.). Call (805) 969-9990 for tickets ($95-$110).