LEWISTON – Those who need a way to celebrate the end of winter can start with the Lewiston Cocktail Festival on Friday and Saturday in the heart of the village.

The event provides a chance to sample local specialty cocktails and learn a bit of Lewiston’s claim to the history of the cocktail.

The festival, which is in its second year, proved so successful last year that it sold out. Organizers expanded the event from one to two days this year and have already sold out for Saturday. Tickets, $25 per person, are still available for Friday and can be purchased in advance at the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, Angel to Apple Clothing Boutique, the Village Bake Shoppe or online at www.lewistoncocktailfestival.com.

Participants receive a “Passport,” which gives them coupons to sample specialty cocktails, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, as well as sample bites of food, at more than 10 restaurants, bars and retailers.

A traveling group of re-enactors from the Lewiston Council on the Arts’ Marble Orchard Players will be stopping in at several locations to mingle and impart a bit of local history.

Tim Henderson, who wrote the first Marble Orchard play in 1993, said “legend has it” that the cocktail was invented by Catherine Hustler at her famous tavern at Eighth and Center streets.

He said the theme for this year will be Prohibition, featuring a new character: the legendary Carrie A. Nation, played by Claudia Carnes. Nation was an early crusader for temperance and was known to smash taverns with her ax.

Henderson said he will be playing a fictional character, Sgt. Jack Daniels of the Salvation Army, who will give a history of the rum runners in Lewiston and talk about a time when there were more taverns than churches in Lewiston.

A longtime Marble Orchard historical figure, Sally Barton Tryon, played by Eva Nicklas, will talk about her need for “medicinal alcohol” to cope with her brood of 11 children and the burning of her mansion in 1812.

Kathryn Serianni, who has portrayed Catherine Hustler with the Marble Orchard for more than a decade, said as a female business owner herself, she always felt that she could relate to the historic Lewiston bar owner.

“She did what needed to be done,” Serianni said of Hustler. “And she must have done pretty well since the British did not burn her business down” when the village was burned during the War of 1812.

She said the players enjoy bringing a bit of history and theatrical style to the festival and that people really seem to enjoy it.

“Any way the Lewiston Council on the Arts can inject some actual history of Lewiston,” said Serianni of the group’s role.

The event is organized by Jon DiBernardo of Water Street Landing and Melissa Morinello, the owner and events coordinator for Sparkle Marketing and Events of Western New York.

“The great thing about having the arts council involved is that they are so into their characters and into the history and that makes it fun and adds an element beyond just having signature cocktails for the event,” Morinello said.

Samplings and cocktails will be available from 5 p.m. to midnight at Water Street Landing, Brickyard Pub and BBQ, the Village Bake Shoppe, Town Hall Restaurant, Casa Antica, Hops and Vines, the Stone House, the Lewiston Events Center, Angel to Apple Clothing Boutique, Tin Pan Alley and De la Casa.

Those participating also will be able to vote on their favorite Absolut Lewiston Cocktail.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com