BluTender Battle: Ladies vs. Lads

Generally speaking, when I talk about cooking with my cousin Linda Marcus, she’s almost always the one giving me great recommendations. Same goes for fashion advice – she competed in Season 15 of Project Runway. But not this time. Shortly after publishing a hot toddy recipe a couple days ago, I received a notification that she had commented on the post.

“Love this! Can I use it Monday night!”

On Monday, Linda will be taking part in a bartending battle at the Pfister Hotel’s Blu Bar and Lounge – it’s aptly named the “BluTender Battle: Ladies vs. Lads.” She and Peggy Williams-Smith, the Senior Vice President of SafeHouse Restaurants, will go up against their husbands, Greg Marcus and Tim Smith, the CEO of Marcus Corp. and General Manager of the Pfister respectively.

“We are going to have some interesting drinks to sell,” Linda explains, “And we’re going to do whatever we can to beat the boys.”

There’s a catch, however. Linda has a couple go-to cocktails, but beyond that, she doesn’t really drink. She admits she’s been doing a lot of studying ahead of the battle.

“The tragic thing about this is that people may be paying me not to make their drinks,” she jokes.

She’s not too worried, though, because she says she and Peggy have a secret strategy to beat their husbands. I pry for more details, but no luck. So then, I ask Linda if she and Greg have discussed their preparations for the big battle.

“Are you kidding?!” She asks, laughing. “I’m not going to share my secrets with him.”

Speaking of Greg and Tim’s team, the competition is fierce. I barely get 30 seconds into a conversation with Tim before he’s making his pitch for the lads team.

“Are you going to come down to the Pfister and put $20 in our tip jar as opposed to Linda’s?” He asks.

I ask what their team has been doing to prepare.

“I’ve been practicing all my life,” he exclaims. “She’s not a bartender. My wife and I have been working in the hotel and restaurant business for years, so I know how to make a drink.”

Sure, they’re all fired up about their competition, but despite all the jokes they’re throwing out at each other, it’s for a fantastic cause: the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. 10% of all the revenue from the drinks, along with all the tips, will benefit LLS.

Linda, Greg, Peggy and Tim decided to compete in a BluTender battle after Linda and Greg’s youngest daughter, Sammy, began participating in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Student of the Year fundraising competition. Linda says Sammy became inspired to compete after hearing about LLS from leukemia and lymphoma survivors who spoke at her school. That’s when Sammy and a group of other students teamed up and began brainstorming ways to fundraise for LLS.

“The BluTender idea came up, and, obviously, Sammy can’t serve drinks because she’s too young,” Linda explains. “But the Pfister has done this kind of battle for dozens of charities.”

“When Linda called me and told me what Sammy was doing and that they wanted to do one [a BluTender Battle] for LLS with Linda and Peggy versus Greg and I, I thought this is awesome,” Tim says. “These are fun and we have a good time. It’s friendly competition. We kind of give each other a hard time while we’re doing it, but at the end of the day, it’s a great way for people to get up into Blu and see the city skyline from the 23rd floor… and it’s always for a good cause.”

A poster of the “Mr. & Mrs. Smith BluTender Battle” hangs in Tim’s office | Courtesy of Tim Smith

This isn’t the first battle Tim and Peggy have competed in at the Pfister. Four years ago, the two of them hosted “The Battle of Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” just like the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie film, donating 10% of the revenue and 100% of the gratuities to the Marcus Hotels & Resorts UPAF campaign. Tim says the success of the bartending battle between the two of them has led to a number of corporate battles of the sexes at Blu.

While the two couples may be the face of the event on Monday night, both Linda and Tim are quick to point out that Blu’s actual bartenders are just as crucial.

“You do see people at these events that have literally never been behind a bar in their life, literally never had a drink in their life,” Tim explains. “So when someone asks for a gin and tonic, they don’t even know where to begin. So to the bartenders, that’s just comical, because to them, it’s like brushing their teeth in the morning, right? You just do it. So I think they kind of sit back and go, ‘how is this gonna work?'”

“I think they’re a little scared to have me walk into their shoes,” Linda jokes. “I might feel the same way if someone walked into my kitchen who has absolutely no experience.” 

All jokes aside, Tim points out one of the biggest reasons the bartenders become the unsung heroes of the night.

“A lot of the tips and so forth that are given to these charities really are coming out of their pockets,” Tim explains. “If it wasn’t us up there, they’d be making money themselves. So, in one way, a big part of what goes on is because of the bartenders’ willingness to do these types of things.”

“BluTender Battle: Ladies vs Lads” will run from 5:30 to 7:30 on Monday, February 12, at the Blu Bar and Lounge at the Pfister Hotel. In addition to cocktails, the event also includes a raffle, with giveaways that include a Kate Spade purse and dinner at Mason Street Grill. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served courtesy of the Pfister Hotel.

For more details on how to host your own BluTender battle for a charitable organization, click here.

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