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Cocktail smackdown: Top bartenders spend 3 days in Las Vegas mixing it up, for a good cause

If the usual gin-and-tonic or rum-and-coke is no longer cutting it, some of the nation’s best bartenders will offer fresh inspiration when they gather in Las Vegas next week.

Now in its third year, For the Love of Cocktails from Wednesday through Feb. 12 attracts thousands of people eager to try the latest drink concoctions and food pairings.

It's an annual fundraiser with money going to the Helen David Bartender Relief Fund. David was a bar owner in Port Huron, Mich., who died of breast cancer. Now money at this and other events goes to support bartenders in need of medical attention.

The celebration promises plenty of clinking glasses and shouts of “cheers” as master mixologists Tony Abou-Ganim (founder of the relief fund) and Salvatore Calabrese are joined by other experts from the United States Bartenders Guild.

Some of the events are sold out. However, a limited number of tickets remain for two key activities.

You'd better plan to take a taxi back to your hotel after enjoying Downtown Cocktail Wars from 5 p.m. to midnight on Feb. 11.

The $50 ticket price features a pub crawl through the streets of downtown Sin City, with stops at venues such as the historic Atomic Liquors, the bohemian Downtown Cocktail Room, and the Laundry, a speakeasy hidden inside Commonwealth.

The fun also includes Truck Wars, during which eight mixologists create drinks paired to the food being served by the chefs from eight food trucks, including the GoodwichOther Mama  and Truck-U BBQ.

Tickets are also available for the Feb. 12 Grand Gala at Skyfall Lounge, perched atop the Delano resort 64 floors above the Strip.

Starting at 6:30 p.m., more than two dozen original cocktails created just for the event will be offered along with appetizers.

Guests can mingle with the mixologists as well as with respected chefs such as Alain Ducasse, who runs the adjoining Rivea restaurant.

Gala tickets cost $150.

Info: For the Love of Cocktails

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