Competitions Bring out the Best in the Mixology Biz

Speed RackSpeed Rack, the national all-female speed-bartending competition, launched a bartending tour this October in an effort to raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Completing its third leg at the Blossom Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, the Speed Rack team is hoping to highlight strong female bartenders in the spirits industry while raising $75,000 before the ultimate Miss Speed Rack is crowned May 2012 at the national finals in New York City. The tour followed the LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) Speed Rack competition in New York City (Winner: Yael Vengroff of PKNY) this past May, which raised $3,500. From there, the competition went to Boston (Winner: Samantha Kershaw of Citizen/Noir) and Portland (Winner: Missy Cross of Sun Liquor in Seattle), where the competitions raised $5,000 and $3,600, respectively. The LA competition, which took place on Nov. 13, named Kylee Van Dillen of Westside Tavern as the winner. Next up will be competitions in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 4, followed by more competitions in San Francisco, Houston, Texas, Denver, Las Vegas and Chicago in 2012.

Gina ChersevaniGina Chersevani, head mixologist at PS 7’s in Washington, D.C., was the victor at The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show Cocktail Throwdown in D.C. on Nov. 5. Chersevani took on Owen Thomson, lead bartender of Jose Andres’ Think Food Group, in a three-part throwdown. The three stages challenged the participants to present their own take on a classic cocktail, use the secret ingredient roasted pumpkin in a cocktail and make their own fantasy drink. For the second round, Cherservani created a creamy roasted-pumpkin cocktail that was topped with housemade dried ham and, in the final round, a bourbon drink made with cider-flavored ice.

ParAgon’s mixologist Matthew Dondanville took top honors in Bloom Gin's San Francisco Cocktail Crawl. Dondanville used a chamomile syrup to highlight the Bloom's softer, lighter flavors while enhancing its existing chamomile notes. Earning a trophy and $250 for his victory, the Gin Blossom cocktail will be available at ParAgon for the next several weeks.

Gin BlossomGin Blossom
Created by Matthew Dondanville of ParAgon and winner of the San Francisco Cocktail Crawl.

2 oz. Bloom Gin
¼ oz. chamomile syrup
¾ oz. hibiscus tea
1 oz. sparkling wine

Combine all ingredients over ice. Shake, then strain into a Martini glass and add a sparkling wine floater.

On Nov. 6, 2011, the United States Bartenders' Guild (USBG) announced the winners of the Bacardi Legacy of the Cocktail New York Showcase at the Copacabana in New York. As a way to pay homage to the Bacardi heritage by seeking out the next cocktail to join the Bacardi Daiquiri and Bacardi Mojito, 14 of New York’s top bartenders and mixologists attempted to create a "New Rum Legacy Cocktail." Competitons will be held in Boston, Los Angeles and Miami, and three winners from each market will advance to the U.S. national Finals Showcase in Miami on Jan. 27, 2012, while the global competition will be held in Puerto Rico in February 2012. The New York finalists include Lynnette Marrero of Peels, Shingo Gokan of Angel’s Share and Raphael Eyers of 1534.


Left to right: James Menite (Judge); Don Lee (Judge); Raphael Reyes (Finalist); Shingo Gokan (Finalist); Lynnette Marrero (Finalist); Juan Coronado (BACARDI Brand Master); Dale DeGroff (Judge); Brian Matthys (Judge)

Winning Cocktail Recipes:

Harlem Honey BeeHarlem Honey Bee
By Lynnette Marrero of Peels.

Inspiration: “I love rum cocktails with cream — it is very Puerto Rican. The Bee’s Kiss cocktail that I created gets a modern upgrade with spices and almond milk.”

1 oz. Bacardi Superior
½ oz. Bacardi 8
½ oz. fresh lime juice
¾ oz. orange blossom honey syrup (2 parts honey to 1 part water)
1 oz. organic cashew milk (*May substitute for almond milk)
Spice mix (toasted cumin, demerara sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, grated almond), for garnish

Place all ingredients in a shaker. Dry shake to incorporate citrus and milk. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a line of spice mix on top of the cocktail in the center of the glass.

Speak lowSpeak Low
By Shingo Gokan of Angel's Share.

Inspiration: “The inspiration of this cocktail is the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Japanese ceremonial activity, where one prepares the matcha tea, presents it and enjoys a moment of quiet. Having been a student of art in Japan, I have always been looking for a way to incorporate the tea ceremony into the cocktail. The rum is crucial to this — a spirit that blends well with the fragrance and the bitterness of the matcha. To bring out the depth, I also added dark rum (Bacardi Solera).”

1 oz. Bacardi Superior
1 oz. Bacardi Solera
½ oz. Osborne Pedro Ximenez sherry
1 tsp. matcha tea and zest of a yuzu

Mix the Bacardi Superior and matcha with a chasen (matcha whisk) in a chawan*. Strain into a shaker and add Bacardi Solera and the sherry. Hard shake and double strain into an Old Fashioned glass and spray of yuzu zest on the top.
* Notes: A chawan or tea bowl is a bowl used for preparing and drinking matcha (powdered green tea) in the Japanese tea ceremony.

El CapitanEl Capitan
By Raphael Reyes of 1534.

Inspiration: “I named this El Capitan because he is the commander of the ship, but when it comes down to the crucial moments, it’s always about others. Like in this industry, everything we do is always for the others.”

1 dash absinthe
¼ oz. ginger juice
½ oz. demerara syrup
¾ oz. fresh pineapple juice
½ oz. Bacardi 8
1½ oz. Bacardi Superior

Build, shake, strain and serve up with a mist of absinthe.

Tales of the CocktailThe Tales of the Cocktail team is preparing for the 2012 cocktail event in New Orleans by accepting submissions for new ideas for seminars, spirited luncheons/dinners, tasting rooms and/or breakfasts and lunches. Seminars are 90 minutes and should be educational; presenters serve three cocktails, and there are 53 time slots available. The spirited luncheons and dinners, as well as tasting rooms, are designed to allow brands to present products to attendees. The media suite breakfasts and lunches are invite-only to a VIP tasting room at the Hotel Monteleone, allowing for a few minutes of interaction with brands and some of the most influential and talented mixologists in the world. The deadline is Jan. 2, 2012, so submit today by clicking here.

There’s a special gift/discount for bartenders who want to join the Museum of the American Cocktail. Anyone who signs up as a Gold Member ($75 annually) by Dec. 1 will receive a complimentary copy of “Lush Life: Portraits from the Bar” by Jill DeGroff. Sign up here.

Master Mixologist and King Cocktail Dale DeGroff will be giving an encore performance of “On The Town,” at Macao Trading Co. in New York City on Dec. 12 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The evening of music, drinks and tales has DeGroff sharing anecdotes from his 40 years of working and carousing around legendary watering holes. For more information about purchasing tickets to the event, click here.

Domaine de Canton is searching for its 2012 Bartender of the Year. Bartenders can submit an original Domaine de Canton cocktail for a chance to win the grand prize of $10,000; the finals will be held in the French — St. Martin, and submissions will be accepted until Feb. 28, 2012. For more information, visit

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