Corcoran Benefit Offers Up Bigger Martinis to a Larger Crowd

The guest list increased and the cocktails got bigger at the Corcoran Gallery of Art's martini-focused Artini fund-raiser.

By Adele Chapin March 31, 2009, 8:00 AM EDT

The Artini fund-raiser at the Corcoran

Photo: Tony Brown/Imijination Photography for BizBash

The Corcoran Gallery of Art's Artini Benefit
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The Corcoran Gallery of Art celebrated the continued popularity of cocktail culture at Saturday night’s sold-out Artini event, which began at 8 p.m. and showcased martinis made by 12 of the area’s top mixologists. Hosted by the museum’s young professionals group, the 1869 Society, with all funds benefiting the scholarship fund of the Corcoran College of Art + Design, the event was the culmination of a monthlong competition for mixologists, who each created a martini inspired by a piece of student artwork. Each venue served its “artini” all month long, and the public voted for their favorite on the Washington City Paper’s Web site, with the winner revealed at Saturday’s party.

The second annual event shook things up this year, with more raffle prizes and a larger crowd, which increased to 750 from last year’s 500. The drinks got bigger tooeach of the 12 mixologists passed out full-size martinis, while last year only the top three venues were present, and only sample-size (read: miniature) martinis were on offer. That meant less standing in line for the crowd of young drinkers, although they might have been spoiled for choice. “I don’t think people will get around to all 12,” said Brooke Clinton, the Corcoran’s assistant manager of special events.

In the V.I.P. lounge, white couches and a quilted white leather bar from Syzygy Events provided a crisp, clean look, and guests got to sample Pernod absinthe. The streamlined look continued downstairs in the atrium, where the Corcoran team decorated bars with jewel-tone tablecloths, and Light Olutions provided a colorful light projection on the main staircase, tiles of light on the floor, and blue column uplighting.  

The mixologists on-site worked with event sponsor brands such as Cointreau, Skyy Vodka, and Cabo Wabo tequila. Each bar station held a placard display of the artwork that inspired the drink. Some went literal, like Chris Kelley of Mie N Yu, who added a gummy octopus to his blue banana martini, since his assigned painting, “Krake,” was a close-up of an octopus. But the Washington City Paper favorite was Wisdom’s Erik Holzherr, who created a martini with Skyy vodka, Lillet Blanc, and Qi Black Tea liqueur based on a ceramic sculpture entitled “Tortoise and the Bare” by student Elisabeth Artz.

Some of the stations ran out of martinis around 10:45. Guests queued-up for the last of the drink samples, toured the museum’s special exhibition “Systematic Landscapes” by architect Maya Lin, or danced to DJ Heather Femia’s mix of Justin Timberlake and '80s dance songs before Artini ended at midnight and the party shifted to the V.I.P. after-party at Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar

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