Lahaina will once again become the center of the energy drink cocktail universe this weekend, as it hosts the 5th annual Manimal Cocktail Championships. The contest brings in hundreds vying for the prize, and thousands of spectators clamoring to see and taste the contestant’s creations. The winner receives bragging rights, and the title of World Champion, as well as having their drink permanently listed in the official Manimal Cocktail Guide. The competition begins this evening, and the drinks will flow until the champion is crowned Sunday afternoon.
Hundreds of barkeeps, tapsters, victuallers, mixologists, and lovers of liquid energy in a collins glass, will descend on Lahaina this evening to see who can create the finest cocktail utilizing Hawaii’s favorite energy drink. The three day competition consists of four preliminary contests leading up to the championship round. Participants in the: Before Dinner Cocktail, Short Drink, Long Drink, and After Dinner Cocktail rounds are judged on taste, presentation, radical garnishing, and originality. The winners come together on Sunday with their finest creations to see whose drink will join the: Lahaina Sunrise, Sloe SSHAM Fizz, Pineapple Mantini, and the Abramo Bomber, in Manimal’s official guide to cocktails.
While there are plenty of contestants from around the world, most of the attention this weekend will be on two-time champion Olive “Shakes” Leroux, and last year’s winner and local favorite, “Soda” Sam Ona. Having both won the competition twice, many see this year as the deciding factor in who is truly the greatest Manimal cocktail creator.
Experts say that Leroux, known for her strong tumbler work, has been focusing on her pouring flare and better pairing of Manimal flavors with specific spirits. “Soda” Sam says he knows he has his hands full with everyone in the competition, but acknowledges that he has his eye on Olive. “There’s no doubt she’s my toughest competition. I know they take Manimal and drinking almost as seriously in Baton Rouge as they do here in Maui, but I won last year, and I plan on taking the title again this weekend. As everyone knows I like blending local flavors in my drinks, and I’ve expanded my garnish game into non-edibles to allow more intricate designs and artistry. As long as none of the judges chip a tooth, I’m confident I’ll come home with the title again.”
With the electricity of competition, and the smell of Manimal in the air, many are gearing up for what has traditionally been a wild weekend. Mayor Albert Cravalho says the county is prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best.
“I think it’s no secret to anyone that this is one of my least favorite events. While we love our hometown energy drink, and all the wonderful things Manimal has done to support the community, there have been numerous company events and promotions that have caused a lot of trouble for first responders and hurt Lahaina’s image. Last year we had the incident where a contestant gained access to the emergency alert system to let everyone know that Lahaina was “officially drunk and hydrated,” and we learned after the first year that we have to disable the public ATVs during the event for public safety. The confluence of unreasonable energy drink consumption, and excessive use of alcohol is a terrible idea, but the people seem to love it, so with the help of more than a dozen Hailoha drivers hired by the city to shuttle fans to and from the competition, the show will unfortunately go on.”
Manimal CEO Spencer Kane says he understands Mayor Cravalho’s trepidation about the event, and points out that the company has paid for an increased police presence this year, and doubled the number of lifeguards working the area beaches. The company has also added new warnings and code of conduct guidelines to all promotional materials. “We are specifically asking all spectators and participants to “Please, Be Cool!” We’ve added it in big letters at the beginning of all of our promos, and the front of our flyers, so I’m pretty sure this year will be much more manageable, but still extreme enough to represent what Manimal is all about,” says Kane.
“Throughout the year much of our marketing is geared towards extreme athletes. We celebrate those individuals who push their limits every day, but let’s be honest, lots of people just like the extra kick our drink gives to their favorite adult beverage. Being a Maui based company we like to think of our customers as family, and every family has a few drinkers. This event, pushing the limits of mixology, and celebrating the hair of the dog, is for them.”