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Sarasota-Manatee Originals Reinvent Annual Cocktail Competition

| Sarah Firstenberger |

The Sarasota-Manatee Originals – a community of locally-owned, independent restaurants on Florida’s Suncoast – have released details of their 2020 Set The Bar Cocktail Week planned for October 12 – 18. In light of the current climate, representatives of the organization have replaced the large-scale, one-night cocktail competition and grazing event of prior years with seven days (and nights) of specially-curated, controlled experiences in restaurants located across the two Gulf-coastal counties and online. The new format continues to showcase the enormous creative beverage talents behind the region’s best eateries with safety and physical-distancing being paramount.

The Bar Cocktail Week History

For the past three years the Sarasota-Manatee Originals have brought together the area’s best bartenders, distillers, and other bar and spirits professionals for their annual Set The Bar party, with over 400 in attendance last year at Universal Flight Training Hangar. “The bar program is a highly integral part of the health and innovation of today’s Restaurant Industry,” states Sarasota-Manatee Originals’ Executive Director Sarah Firstenberger. “Like the Chefs in the kitchen, our bartenders are driving the guest experience, delighting guests with thoughtful and creative cocktails and perfect pairings. Set the Bar was created as a playful platform to spotlight their enormous contributions and we are thrilled to expand the one-time event into a week-long celebration.”

The 2020 Set The Bar Cocktail Week will feature a varied and robust menu of special offerings from Sarasota-Manatee Originals’ Member Restaurants including limited-time house specialties, discounted drink offers, ready-to-drink to-go batch beverages, signature cocktail, and food pairings, cocktail tasting events, and dinners, and virtual and in-person mixology classes. The Sarasota-Manatee Originals consist of over 60 independent restaurants from the northern tip of Anna Maria Island to the southern beaches of Venice and every neighborhood in between.

Offerings and prices vary from location to location. All details including a list of participating restaurants can be found on the Originals’ website. Questions can be directed to Sarasota-Manatee Originals’ Event and Community Outreach Director Veronica Clinton at (941) 365-2800 or by email at

The Sarasota-Manatee Originals Story

Cocktail Competition

As the world bid welcome to the new millennium, Sarasota residents and business owners rolled into 2000 with cautious optimism. The hidden jewel of Florida’s Suncoast had been discovered. Most notably, the town’s rich cultural sophistication and natural beauty had caught the eye of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. The construction of a Ritz-Carlton Hotel would announce to the world that the former sleepy ‘Circus City’ had achieved top-drawer status. The ensuing land boom and downtown resurgence would draw even more attention to the area’s opportunities and local restaurant owners soon found themselves competing with big brand chains.

The Sarasota-Manatee Originals was established in September 2003 based on a shared passion to celebrate and preserve the community’s culinary sense of place. A group of 24 independent restaurant owners and chefs from Sarasota and Manatee counties had learned to see their neighbor restaurants as collaborators, not competition and came together to become Florida’s first chapter of a group of its kind. Today the “Originals” are over 60 restaurants strong, spanning 40 miles of Florida’s central Gulf coast and providing guests with unique local flavor from the north shore of Anna Maria Island down to the southern beaches of Venice and every neighborhood in between.

Standing stronger together, the Originals organization works to preserve, elevate and celebrate the culinary heritage its Members represent – defined not so much by a particular flavor or cuisine, but by the passionate personality, dedication to the highest quality, and love of community that marks the independent restaurant professional. We support our Member restaurants who help define our Suncoast, give it character, and make it a memorable town to visit and live. The Sarasota-Manatee Originals do this through creative advertising, unique marketing events, and opportunities, and forging strategic partnerships. We urge the community to support our local independent restaurants here and across the country and encourage everyone to always “Eat Like A Local.”

Contacts: The Sarasota-Manatee Originals, Sarah Firstenberger, Executive Director,

Veronica Clinton, Event and Community Outreach Director,


Sarasota-Manatee Originals
1215D S Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34239


Photos from Sarasota-Manatee Originals and Waterfront Restaurant, AMI

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