By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Sep 13, 2012 at 9:01 AM

You don't need to be paying particularly close attention to the restaurant industry to realize that "farm to table" is becoming a way of life. Consumers are shopping more frequently at farmers markets, getting to know their local producers and creating a demand for food that is both fresh and local. In turn, restaurants are beginning to turn to area farms and purveyors for products previously sourced from across the U.S.

So, it's no surprise that the local concept is also being applied to the cocktails that people are drinking.

That's exactly what Dy Godsey was inspired to do after reading about a Four Seasons Hotel promotion called 100 Mile Cocktails, for which hotel mixologists in the Americas were asked to create specialty cocktails with ingredients sourced from within 100 miles of their hotels.

Godsey, who is an accomplished bartender and bar supervisor at the Chancery in Waukesha, began her love affair with local by growing her own herbs in an organic bar garden in the back of the restaurant.

"I happen to work in a bar that is about as Wisconsin as it gets," Godsey says. "We carry local beers, local spirits and at my location, make bespoke, locally-sourced cocktail ingredients for our craft cocktails. My guests can taste the difference that freshness and creativity makes, and the response to my seasonal craft menus has been rewarding. I was looking for a way to inspire other bartenders to think creatively about ways to use what is local."

So, she came up with the idea for The Great Sconnie Sip-Off, a cocktail competition with an unusual stipulation: all ingredients must be sourced from the great state of Wisconsin.

The Sip-Off will be held at the Waukesha Chancery Saturday, Sept. 15 beginning at 7 p.m.

Six teams, one from each Chancery location, will submit their original cocktails, subjecting them to the palates of local cocktail experts Guy Rehorst, founder of the Great Lakes Distillery; Angie West, co-owner and editor of Alcoholmanac Magazine; and Ira Koplowitz, co-owner of Bittercube Bitters. Each entry will be evaluated on the basis of presentation, aroma, taste, balance and originality.

"The bartenders all have great Wisconsin ingredients to work with," says Guy Rehorst, "so I think it will come down to the bartenders individual creativity ... how they will use those ingredients."

Winning cocktails will be eligible for both the Grand Prize and the Peoples' Choice Award, which will be determined by the public. Winning teams will be presented with mixology-themed prize baskets, as well as bragging rights for innovation and creativity.

Angie West hopes the event will inspire participants to create simply-prepared, fresh cocktails that really make use of the vast array of local ingredients available to them.

"You pretty much can't go wrong with twists on the classics in my book," she explains. "But, because this will also consider originality, it would be fun to see some successful uses of vegetables or something locally abundant but atypical to drinks."

In addition to showcasing the talents of area bartenders, the event aims to create community around both cocktail culture and local eating and drinking.

"Events with a focus on local talent and ingredients really help to strengthen the community and industry at a level with which we can all relate and experience," says West. "Supporting local businesses and agriculture is a passion and strong value of mine, so when I was asked to judge I was thrilled to be a part of something that brings our people together."

Rehorst underscores that it's the growing interest in quality spirits that drives what consumers are beginning to see in local bars and restaurants.

"Milwaukee cocktail culture is alive and growing, as it is throughout the U.S.," he explains. "Bars and restaurants are really stepping up their cocktail programs, a lot of places that were very beer-centric are doing more interesting cocktails. Consumers are realizing how flexible spirits can be, and the really great bars are leading the way."

In 2012, The Sip-Off will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Chancery brand. But, Godsey's vision goes further than that. She hopes that The Great Sconnie Sip-Off will become an annual event, featuring mixologists from a variety of area bars and restaurants as well as a charity component.

She hopes the event will attract a wide variety of attendees who appreciate the challenge of creating, and the enjoyment of drinking, the freshest and most creative of cocktails.

"Please join us for this event," Godsey writes on her blog, Fun Behind Bars, "whether you support a particular Chancery team, love Wisconsin or just want to socialize with like-minded cocktail aficionados."

The Great Sconnie Sip-Off is free and open to the public.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.