Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

A sold-out crowd of more than 100 people enjoyed nine fantastic cocktails—all made with Ketel One Botanical vodka—at the Third Annual Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, held Wednesday, Jan. 30, at Moxie Palm Springs.

Carlos Argumedo, of Farm, was declared the champion of the event, earning an amazing 92 points (out of 100 possible) on the judges’ scoresheets. The tally was close—three points separated first place from fourth place. Argumedo follows in the footsteps of 2018 winner Hunter Broggi, of Lulu California Bistro (who also participated in this year’s event), and 2016 winner Sherman Chan, of Trio Restaurant.

Trio’s Garrett Spicher was the Audience Choice winner.

Nine bartenders competed in the event, which sold out for the first time in its three-year history. Each competitor made tastes of their drinks for each attendee, before making full drinks for the judges: Ketel One’s Leslie Barclay; Brad Fuhr, of media sponsors Gay Desert Guide and KGAY 106.5 FM; and representatives of Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week’s beneficiaries: the Desert AIDS Project’s Darrell Tucci, and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s Alexis Ortega.

The championship is the highlight of Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, a production of the Coachella Valley Independent. During the week, which continues through Saturday, Feb. 2, participating restaurants create a special drink for the week, or highlight an existing drink from their menus, and donate at least $2 from each drink sold during the week to the Desert AIDS Project and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. A complete list of drinks and participants can be found at

Below is a collection of photos from the event, taken by the Independent’s Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Snapshot

During a recent interview, War Drum keyboardist Jack Kohler and bassist Robbie Waldman (also a member of the band Waxy) revealed that the band plans on taking a break from live gigs.

However, fans have nothing to fear: In fact, the band is making plans to record a brand-new new album.

War Drum also includes of Ehren Groban (guitar), John Marek (guitar) and Peter Leighton (drums). The band formed in the summer of 2010 while Kohler and Groban were employees of the Ace Hotel and swim club. Waldman watched the band play without a bassist shortly after the formation.

“I remember hearing about War Drum a little bit, and I saw them playing at the Ace Hotel,” Waldman said. “There was a different drummer back then, this guy named Carlos. Peter was playing guitar; Ehren was playing guitar; and Jack was on keys. I saw what they were doing as an audience member, and there was this authorial, tribal, spiritual and desert landscape feel to their music, and I was immediately attracted to it.”

Kohler said the band gained a lot when it added Waldman and his bass.

“Robbie has years of experience, and he owns the Unit A Studios recording studio in Palm Springs,” Kohler said. “He had a lot that we didn’t have at that time when he came into it. It was just a bunch of kids having fun and partying, and playing kind of off-beat rock and roll. We were more of a sound/feel band before we were a harder desert-rock band. I think we’ve formed into that over the past few years. We added a lot more of a dynamic when he joined the group. Plus the bass is such a necessary thing.”

One of the highlights of War Drum’s history is the band’s European tour. Kohler told a story about how his one night to enjoy a bed of his own was spoiled.

“One night, we were in Spain, and we played this show, and everyone was really fucked up—as in next-level fucked up, not normal bar shit,” Kohler said. “We were in a hostel that night, and it was a really nice place. Around 2 or 3 in the morning, no one knew where Peter was, which is not unusual, because as we’d like to say, ‘He’s a drummer.’ He was wandering the streets of Spain for three or four hours, probably. We looked for him, and we went around asking if anyone had seen him in Spanish. I was so upset with him, because it was the only night where I had a bed, and he had the (only) key to our room, which is the dumbest idea we ever had, to give him the key.”

However, the trip to Europe was worth it.

“To me, the outstanding moment was when we played a show in Linz, Austria,” Waldman said. “It was a magic show. It was at a place called Kapu, where bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden played. It’s a small club, but it has a big stage, big P.A.—and something that holds 1,000 people should really only be holding about 300. It was packed; it was smoked, filled out; and it was hot. We played so well. You could just tell the crowd responded, and we sold our merch. It was one of those nights that you wish everyone could experience.”

As for the present, War Drum is planning to go on a short break, so he and Waldman can work on some other projects. However, the band hopes to have a new album out after the end of the year.

“We want to get into the studio and record,” Kohler said. “We just want to get our next album totally done. I think we’re both totally sick of our old album. Robbie and I are both getting ready to go back out on the road with other projects, and his project Waxy. We’re going to go to Australia, and possibly back to Europe again.

Waldman said breaks like this are part of being a serious musician.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” Waldman said. “You always have to be writing; you always have to be doing your thing; and you always have to be doing the next project.”

Kohler said the band’s ambitions remain high.

“I think that it’s about time we do more,” Kohler said, “that we get out and kind of actualize the things we want. We have all the pieces and the opportunities to do it.”

Waldman was a bit more specific.

“In today’s world, bands are responsible for two things, and you don’t need anyone’s help to do this: You have to be able to make your own albums. The second is your image: I think in War Drum, we all have to work on our image, and I think that’s where we should concentrate.”

For more information, visit the band's Facebook page.