[image-1]Food and alcohol are the blood that keep Charleston alive, but there are casualties — the food and beverage industry has one of the highest rates of substance abuse of any in the country. To support and celebrate those who are recovering from addiction or choosing to remain sober, Ben’s Friends, in partnership with Brown-Forman, one of the world’s leading liquor producers, is teaming up to host an alcohol-free cocktail competition Tues. Jan. 15 at the Cocktail Club from 6 to 8 p.m.

[image-5]Ben’s Friends, for those who don’t know, is a support group for people in the food and beverage industry who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction. The nonprofit was created by Charleston Grill general manager Mickey Bakst and Indigo Road managing partner Steve Palmer in honor of Ben Murray, a lifelong chef who took his own life after struggling with alcoholism for many years. Ben’s Friends was created for workers in the industry seeking a safe, anonymous, judgment free environment in which they could stop using substances or maintain their sobriety.

The Mocktail Competition is free to attend, but guests are encouraged to make donations to Ben’s Friends. Raffle tickets will also be sold at the event to raise money for Ben’s Friends with prizes including a dinner for four at Charleston Grill.

The competition features bartenders from all over Charleston competing to create virgin drinks in the hopes of winning a $1,000 Uber gift card. The competition started with 26 bartenders submitting their mocktail recipes — the top six will compete live at Cocktail Club. Bar Mash bartender Katie Daniel is one of the top six; her drink, “It Takes 2 to Mango,” is made with mango and raspberry shrub, ginger syrup, coconut cream, mint leaves, and soda water.

The competition will help spotlight mocktails, showing that just because you not drinking alcohol, that doesn’t mean your drink choices have to be be bland or boring.