Getting the Hang of It

Vanessa Morrison, bartender at The Strip Steakhouse in Avon, Ohio, did her homework. And in this case, that meant cooking down a pound and a half of bacon, draining off the fat and using it to infuse a bottle of Hangar One Straight Vodka.

She brought her very special bottle of vodka to Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland on a bright, sunny day in August to compete in the Hangar One Landing Cocktail Contest.

The contest, which is taking place now in over 20 cities across the country, pits 15 bartenders in each location against one another for the grand prize: a trip to the Hangar One distillery in Alameda, California.

Morrison demonstrated her B-L-Tini cocktail to the crowd gathered outside at the airport: bacon-infused vodka, pureed fresh tomatoes and a dash of celery salt, garnished with a lettuce leaf and bacon-stuffed olives. Ya gotta love bacon to like this drink, and a lot of the onlookers smacked their lips in appreciation after giving it a taste.

And Morrison is leaps ahead of her Northeast Ohio competitors in votes. (You can add your voice to the roar of approval at Of course she’s up against stiff bartenders from Boston to San Diego as the tour makes its way back to the West Coast.

Minus one blimp. The Hangar One Blimp Tour launched May 29 in Orlando, Florida, with the inaugural flight of a 128-foot-long blimp sporting the Hangar One logo. In each city on its itinerary, the blimp took guests up for a ride.

My co-publisher Sue Myers and I got what turned out to be one of the last rides on the doomed blimp.

And what a marvelous ride that was! Lake Erie sparkled in the dazzling sunlight, the Cuyahoga wound its muddy way below us, and the downtown skyscrapers reached up toward us. For about 30 minutes we circled the city before coming back to a gentle landing at Burke.

But when a storm came through a few days later in Columbus – the blimp’s next stop – the empty airship broke away from its moorings and drifted over the sleeping city before landing unceremoniously in 94-year-old Lillian Bernhagen’s backyard. She quipped to an AP reporter that she just might need a drink after that experience.

Fortunately, the only casualty in the mishap was a tree.

The tour and contest continues, blimpless, to its conclusion November 19 in San Francisco.

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