BELLINGHAM - On a recent Sunday night, about 30 people at the Temple Bar watched as Sara Holodnick combined gin, bitters, grapefruit juice and a lilac-rhubarb-strawberry syrup in an ode to the latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes.
"Feeling a little bit mad scientist here," the self-taught bartender said to the appreciative audience while demonstrating how to make a cocktail she called A Study in Pink.
As for the syrup, "I made this from scratch for you, so you're welcome," the Bellingham resident said as the audience chuckled.
It was the first of two drinks that Holodnick - who went by her cocktail stage name Sara Galactica - made on May 18 for the first of three "Sherlock"-themed events at the Bellingham bar and restaurant. The next two are this June.
The second drink was called The Watson. (See recipe on page XXX.)
"A Study in Pink" is also the first episode in "Sherlock," the BBC's reboot of a crime drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the famed detective and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson.
The sold-out event at Temple Bar featured a showing of "Sherlock" as well as samplers of the drinks inspired by the show. The first cocktail was a pretty vision in pink, with sweetness balanced by bitters and a floral hint from the lilac in the syrup.
It was a bright surprise on the tastebuds.
"This is so cool. I love doing cool stuff," a grinning Chelsea Farmer, owner of Temple Bar, said just before the TV episode started.
Later, Farmer would say: "Sara has such a great stage presence and is a wonderful public speaker. My favorite part was just listening to her talk."
Holodnick, 31, is a self-described nerd and a history buff who's also one of The Good Time Girls - a tour group that specializes in the bawdy parts of Bellingham's history.
Her adopted name Galactica is as an ode to the TV series "Battlestar Galactica," the 2004 reimaging of the space opera launched in 1978.
She's been mixing cocktails and experimenting with flavors for about 10 years. It's a hobby fed by the resurgence in the popularity of the drinks.
About five years ago, she decided to combine her two loves - good stories and good drinks - when she invited friends to her home for cocktails inspired by "Firefly," the sci-fi Western created by Joss Whedon.
"Food and drinks tell a story, too," she said.
Holodnick kept going after that and has crafted concoctions inspired by other shows she loved, such as "Downton Abbey," "True Blood," "Twin Peaks," "Carnivàle" and "Gilmore Girls."
For her, it's about pulling something from the feel of an episode, a character or the set.
"I tend to look for different types of symbols or different types of things that can help tell a story," she explained.
Take the drink inspired by the character Watson, which she said had a little sour note to it.
Not that Watson is a sour guy, she said, but there's an edge to his character, a little darkness - a trait that Holodnick played with.
"Oh, this is Watson," she remembered thinking when she created the right flavors to reflect the character.
Some of the drinks Holodnick made, including an earlier version of A Study in Pink, can be found on her blog at saragalactica.com. "This is the home for all of my nerdy musings," she told the group at the Temple Bar.
She started the blog to share her creations with others, and also to document her experiments to remember them for later.
Back at the Temple Bar, Holodnick was combining the makings for A Study in Pink and talking to the audience about the importance of bitters and offering a "pro tip" about proper use of cocktail tools.
"Shakers are fun. They're easy. Make sure you seal them all the way before you shake them," she quipped.
Marissa McGrath, Holodnick's business partner in The Good Time Girls, was at the event with husband Jon Mitchell.
"Sara is one of the best bartenders I know," McGrath said.
The first drink received raves from Mitchell, who said he's not a cocktail drinker, as well as McGrath.
"It was five o's in my sooooo good," she said.
To Holodnick, such events are about taking what's perceived as a solitary experience - watching TV - and revealing that people actually like to gather and talk about their shows.
"People love their stories. I love my stories and for me this is one way of playing around with that and exploring," Holodnick said. "I will also say, personally, I don't mind watching Benedict Cumberbatch on a big screen."
A SHOW AND DRINKS
Bellingham resident Sara Holodnick and the Temple Bar will present two more cocktail events inspired by the BBC crime series "Sherlock," which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson.
Participants can watch the show and see Holodnick create cocktails at 306 W. Champion St. in Bellingham on two Sundays - June 8 and June 29. Both events begin at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $10 each. Go to saragalactica.com to get them.
Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or firstname.lastname@example.org .