Salsa! Tequila! Salsa! Tequila!

The 6th Annual Salsa &Tequila Challenge on Saturday sparkled with energy, fun and high spirits (literally and figuratively). Held at La Encantada Shopping Center, this is Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance’s (SAACA) premier event. 1,500 people attended raising more than $44,000 for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, SAACA’s arts education program and a veterans’ art therapy program.DSCN2402

We judges got an early start of all the offerings and believe me there were plenty of them. Two teams split the delectable tastings of cocktails, straight tequila and food pairings. Presentation was a big part of our judging and some places went all out (Highwire Lounge‘s  Pearl Shot was a standout).DSCN2400 The food pairings ranged from salmon ceviche to smoked hog.DSCN2401

All in all there were 45 restaurants involved and over 100 recipes (cocktails and food.)DSCN2398

Music was provided by Orquesta Salsarengue. People couldn’t help but get up and dance. Ballet Folklorico La Paloma dancers entertained.

Also, this year there was a record number of tequila distributers.

JW Marriott Star Pass Resort & Spa was the Grand Prize Winner (Judges and People’s Choice combined.) They won in several other categories as well.14068074_10206426585492826_6445886587303543169_n

Here is a list of the winners in each category:


Salsa Challenge – People’s Choice Awards

1st Place Salsa – Crossroads Restaurant, De La Abuela

2nd Place Salsa – Rigo’s Restaurant, Salsa de Molcagete

3rd Place Salsa – Cactus Slap Salsa, Thai Pineapple



Salsa Challenge – Judges Awards

Best Traditional Salsa – JW Marriott Starr Pass, Salsa Fresca

Best Hot Salsa – Le Buzz Café, Chile Manzano Mango Spicy Salsa

Best Mild Salsa – Click Café, Flavor City

Best Alternative Salsa – JW Marriott Starr Pass, Mojito Pico De Gallo

Judges Choice, Best Overall Salsa – JW Marriott Starr Pass, Salsa Fresca


Tequila Challenge – People’s Choice Awards

1st Place Tequila Cocktail – Rigo’s Restaurant, Infused Cucumber Margarita

2nd Place Tequila Cocktail – Dante’s Fire, Spicy Pineapple Margarita

3rd Place Tequila Cocktail – Queen Ceviche, Dusty’s Margarita


Tequila Challenge – Judges Awards

Most Creative Cocktail – Highwire Lounge, HW Pearl Shot

Best Sweet Cocktail – Queen Ceviche, Dusty’s Margarita

Best Savory Cocktail – Casino Del Sol, Traditional Guadalajara Sangrita

Judges Choice, Best Overall Tequila Cocktail – Queen Ceviche, Dusty’s Margarita


Other Awards

Best Food Pairing – Gringo Grill, Duck Tamale

Most Creative Display – Casino Del Sol

Grand Reserve Tequila Tasting – 3 Amigos, Ramona’s Reserve


Grand Prize

Best Overall – Judges + People’s Choice Combined Score – JW Marriott Starr Pass