Last month, a group of local media gathered at Cellar Wine Bar in Lower Highland to sample the venue’s impressive menu of newly crafted cocktails. Known as the Sake infusion series, the cocktails feature fresh fruits, herbs and other seasonal ingredients and are the brainchild of Erik Catelle, an award-winning mixologist who recently joined Cellar’s staff.

We were excited to get feedback on the new concoctions from our media panel, who agreed to rate their favorites from a field of six contenders. The judges included: Margaret Jackson and Penny Parker of the Denver Post; North Denver Tribune Editor Elisa Cohen and writer Basha Cohen; Downtown Denver News Publisher Samantha Martel, Wine Spectator Writer Jayne Russell, Denver By the Slice blogger David Huntress and his wife, photographer Diane Huntress and Piper Vitale of Colorado Expression. Here’s a look at the lovely Natsu Kyurri – a summertime spritzer cocktail with muddled cucumber, a ginger basil infused simple syrup, Sake and a splash of soda served on the rocks.

The Natsu Kyurri looked pretty, but the Lychee Colada – a fruity blend of fresh-muddled lychee, coconut milk, fresh squeezed lime, Sake and a dash of soda – proved most popular. Coming in a close second was the cleverly named Sake Tini, a modern take on the martini which mixes Sake, vermouth, olive juice and star fruit. Third place went to the simple yet sophisticated Blooming Champagne, a beautiful pink drink featuring hibiscus flower, champagne and bitters. Thanks to our judges for serving as a taste testers. Here they are hard at work.

The three media faves are now fixtures on Cellar’s menu. True to its name, the bar also offers more than 40 wines by the glass. If you’d like to sample some of their selection, consider attending Cellar’s next wine tasting on September 7th. The event, which showcases Infinite Monkey Theorem’s wines, will run from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. You can find more information about the tasting here.

Congratulations to Cellar Wine Bar, which just celebrated its first anniversary. To mark the occasion, we helped the LoHi lounge throw a festive summer party that also served as a fundraiser for the Urban Green Development Sustainable Scholarship Foundation. The foundation is raising money to fund one full-ride scholarship for a North High School student interested in pursuing a career in green and renewable industries.

Cellar Wine Bar owners Brian Delgado and Sandra Lopez donated $1 from every glass of wine sold during the party to the foundation. The cause is especially close the couple’s heart, since they met and fell in love as students at North High. The pair, who married in August 2005, chose to open their business in Highland because of their connection to the neighborhood. As successful entrepreneurs, they serve as role models for current North High students. The anniversary celebration provided the opportunity for Brian and Sandra (pictured below left) to thank the community for its support, while providing a hand up for future generations.

The event drew a big crowd and guests included new North High principal Nicole Veltze, Shapes Salon Owner Richelle Bishop-Gonzales, Denver Public Schools board member Arturo Jimenez, Wine Spectator writer Jayne Russell and Metromix/9News reporter Heidi McGuire.

Thanks to all who joined us for the festivities. If you haven’t already, please check out Cellar Wine Bar, located at the corner of 15th and Umatilla. The bar offers 35 different types of wines by the glass as well as sake, beer, cocktails and Spanish-influenced appetizers, including beef and potato empanadas. A patio is the works, which should provide the perfect spot to while away the remaining summer days.