The fifth annual Summer Sippin’ Roswell, which wrapped on September 30, brought the community together to safely celebrate the end of summer while supporting the local restaurants and of course, to crown the “Best Sips in Roswell” 2020. This year’s event was the largest to date with 51 participating restaurants, breweries and cafes each featuring a unique summer-inspired sip, with both in-house and carryout options available. During the two-month-long event, patrons were encouraged to order sips at participating restaurants. Customers could then rate each sip they tried on the Summer Sippin’ app or to help determine the “Best Sips in Roswell” 2020. 

Thousands of drinks were sold, hundreds of customers rated and the rankings are in. This year’s winning restaurants are both Hispanic-owned businesses, with sips inspired by the flavors of Latin America. The 2020 “Best Sips in Roswell” first-place winners are—the “Blackberries Hot Volcano Margarita” at Fresco Cantina Grille in the alcoholic category and the “VC-SHOCK” kombucha at Huh Natural & Real Food in the non-alcoholic category. 

Last year’s runner up, Fresco Cantina Grille, turned things up a notch this year and took the crown with the “Blackberries Hot Volcano Margarita”. Bringing some sweet heat to the competition, this sip is made with red chile-infused tequila, blackberries, lime, triple sec, agave nectar and topped with mango Raspado, which is a traditional Latin American summer treat of shaved ice and fruit syrup. Fresco opened in 2018 and has quickly become a local favorite, known for their fresh, made-from-scratch dishes and unique cocktails.

Communications and office manager Paola Caceres said, “the beginning of the pandemic was difficult, but Fresco shifted its business model to focus on online ordering and even launched a delivery website recently. Summer Sippin’ also helped us reach customers and increase sales. We sold about 350 Summer Sippin’ drinks and saw a 5% increase in sales during the two-month-long event.”

In the non-alcoholic category, first-time participant Huh Natural and Real Food created the competition’s first kombucha. The “VC-Shock” is packed full of Vitamin C and Peruvian flavor, made with passion fruit, cherries and goldenberry—a sweet and tropical fruit common in Peru. The cafe bakery opened in December 2019 and offers gluten-free and dairy-free dishes that are made with fresh, organic ingredients. 

“March and April were very difficult for our restaurant, but we are gradually recovering.”, said owner, operator Sebastian Gracey. “Participating in Summer Sippin’ helped us during this difficult time. We sold around 200 VC-Shock kombuchas, and over the last two months, our sales have grown by 10% each month. Although this year’s projected sales are lower than we anticipated, we are seeing things improve day-by-day.” 

This is exactly the kind of support that Roswell Inc, the city’s economic development organization which runs this program, hoped that Summer Sippin’ would provide. However, at the onset of COVID-19, Roswell Inc wasn’t sure if Summer Sippin’ would happen at all. The organization initially halted all plans for the event while their team focused on informing and supporting the local business community as they navigated the pandemic. But as the weeks went on, it quickly became apparent that the food and beverage industry was going to be one of the hardest hit sectors.

“Roswell is a culinary destination, and support programs such as Summer Sippin’ and Roswell Restaurant Week not only help restaurants increase sales, but they also spread regional awareness so that the food and beverage industry can continue to thrive”, said Steve Stroud, executive director of Roswell Inc.

After much discussion and consideration, Roswell Inc determined that Summer Sippin’ would provide vital marketing support as the industry looked toward reopening and recovery. The event was rescheduled for August through September, and Roswell Inc announced that it would waive all participation fees for the first time ever. Additionally, with safety remaining the top priority, carryout and take-home options were encouraged and strict ‘Sip Safely Standards’ were implemented. 

Steve Stroud added, “while this industry has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, we are seeing vast improvements as both businesses and consumers are learning to adapt. The winter months will require restaurants to further pivot, but we will continue to support them through these efforts and plan to announce dates for an extended Roswell Restaurant Week very soon!”  

Below are the ‘Best Sips in Roswell’ 2020 for each category:

Top 5 Alcoholic Sips

  1. “Blackberries Hot Volcano Margarita” at Fresco Cantina Grille
  2. “I’m a Pretty Little Butterfly” at The Whiskey Project
  3. “The Stinger” at Taqueria Tsunami
  4. “What’s the Dillo?” at Foundation Social Eatery
  5. “Empress of Roswell” at Houck’s Grille

Top 3 Non-alcoholic Sips

  1. “VC-SHOCK” at Huh Natural & Real Food
  2. “Strawberry Gingerade” at Sublime Tree
  3. “Samoa Cookie Iced Latte” at Crazy Love Coffee House

A full list of this year’s participating restaurants can be found on Summer Sippin’ is an industry support event by Roswell Inc and is sponsored by Gas South and EDGE Business Solutions.