By Donald Wittkowski
Don’t be surprised this summer if you hear the patrons at your favorite Jersey Shore tavern or restaurant say, “Bartender, give me a HEROtini.”
A HERO what?
The Great HEROtini Mocktail Challenge is the trademarked name for a contest that will run from Memorial Day to Labor Day to promote the importance of responsible drinking and using a designated driver.
Conceived by the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers, the contest will feature bars, taverns and restaurants at the Jersey Shore concocting a special alcohol-free “mocktail” and vying for top honors in an online poll.
Bill Elliott, co-chair and chief executive officer of the HERO Campaign, said 23 bars and restaurants in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties have signed up so far. He estimates the number will be closer to 40 by the time the contest gets underway Memorial Day weekend.
The bars and restaurants, in turn, will team up with local sponsors pledging their financial support for the HERO Campaign. Elliott said there has already been a great deal of enthusiasm by the sponsors and participating businesses.
“The bars and restaurants are getting into the spirit of this. They are doing everything to promote it,” he said.
Angela Diamantis, co-owner of Sofia Restaurant in Margate, one of the participating businesses, said the contest will show that people can have a great time without having to consume alcohol.
“I strongly believe in being responsible and promoting responsible drinking,” Diamantis said. “You can have a nonalcoholic drink and still have a lot of fun.”
The John R. Elliott HERO Campaign is named in honor of Bill Elliott’s son, a Navy ensign who was killed by a drunken driver in July 2000, just two months after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Bill Elliott and his wife, Muriel, founded the HERO Campaign to fight drunken driving and promote the use of designated drivers.
“This event is part of our mission and part of our awareness campaign about the importance of having a designated driver,” Elliott said of the HEROtini contest.
Glenn Insurance Inc., of Absecon and Vineland, has been a HERO Campaign sponsor from the very beginning, said the company’s owner and president, Tim Glenn.
“They took such a horrible tragedy and turned it into something positive to save lives,” Glenn said of the Elliotts.
Glenn Insurance is partnering with the Northfield accounting firm of Capaldi, Reynolds and Pelosi to sponsor Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar in Somers Point in the HEROtini contest.
“It sounds like a fun thing to get people out,” Glenn said.
With help from the contest’s participating businesses and sponsors, the HERO Campaign is promoting the idea that drinking an alcohol-free cocktail is a cool way to enjoy dinner or spend time at a bar.
“It is getting very trendy to make nonalcoholic cocktails,” said Christine D’Alessandro, event coordinator for the HERO Campaign.
Starting Memorial Day weekend, bartenders at the participating taverns and restaurants will create, name and enter their alcohol-free drinks to compete for the title of “Outstanding HEROtini Mocktail.”
Patrons will be able to vote for their favorite drinks, bartenders and establishments on Facebook and on the HERO Campaign website at HEROCampaign.org. They will also be able to vote by sending a text on their smartphones.
The top 10 finalists in the contest will be invited to an evening celebration Sept. 14 at the Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club in Galloway Township. Celebrity judges at the gala will pick the contest winners.
Elliott stressed that the HEROtini contest does not promote the drinking of alcohol, but does have a competitive aspect that encourages bartenders to create a sophisticated, alcohol-free drink appealing to adults.
“This isn’t your parents’ Shirley Temple anymore,” he joked.