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Watch: Spenard bar offers special cocktail with proceeds going to friend’s cancer relief fund

Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 7:31 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Folks who frequent Fiori D’Italia are well aware of how good a cocktail Ylli Ferati can pour. During October, one drink on the menu has been raising toasts, as well as money, for a friend going through hard times.

Carissa Pearce said she first walked into Fiori D’Italia a little over five years ago. At the time, she was looking for bars to write cocktail stories and reviews for “Tales of the Cocktail.” She said she got her exceptional beverage and some really good company in the process.

"After he made me my first cocktail, I realized he was legit so I started coming here more often,” she said of Ferati.

After years of trading secrets, helping each other perfect cocktail recipes and having some good talks while they drank them, they really got to know each other.

One day in May, Ferati said he got a call from Pearce with terrible news. She had developed serious colon cancer. She said she’s already gone through one round of chemo and radiation, a massive surgery and, next week, she starts another four months of chemo.

All of a sudden, Pearce had costly medical bills. She said she had to take a month off work and ran out of paid time off.

Ferati said he thought about what he could do to help his friend and favored customer. He remembered some of the things they’d done together in the world of cocktails.

“For me, I’ve seen her help me with events,” he said, “we’ve done a couple charity events. One of my favorite things to do with her was Negroni Week.”

He said Negroni Week is a global event where bars and cocktail mixers come up with drinks to donate proceeds to various charities. They were actually supposed to do it again this year, but the COVID-9 pandemic canceled it.

Instead, Ferati started an event this month with Negroni being part of the inspiration.

So he came up with “Carissa’s Cocktail” composed of some of her favorite ingredients, including a rose-infused brandy created by Ferati’s mother, rose limoncello and champagne.

Based on the look on Pearce’s face when she took her first sip of it, it’s pretty delicious.

It cost $20 a pour with every penny going to Pearce on Nov. 1 to help cover the cost of her bills and support her daughter and partner.

Ferati said he’s keeping the amount of money secret until he gives it to her, but it’s been wildly successful and supported thus far.

Pearce pointed out that the irony of being on the receiving end of a cocktail inspired charity is not lost on her, but it doesn’t take away from how grateful she is to have walked into the bar five years ago for that first drink.

“I feel so blessed and super grateful, and I come to tears just about every other day just thinking about the support that I’ve received from our Anchorage and Alaskan community,” she said.

Pearce also wants this life event for her to be a wake-up call to others. She said her cancer was caught late after doctors dismissed symptoms. Now, she says anyone who has any thought that they should, should get screened.

Those who want to help don’t have to go all the way to the bar to help the cause. There’s a Venmo account where donations can be sent to @Joel-Loosli.

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