Presenting the 2012 NCB Awards Bar Category Winners

Who are the bar industry’s darlings? Which bars and bartenders won some hard-earned recognition this year as the cream of the crop? Awards logoNightclub & Bar Media Group would like to recognize the Bar Category Winners of the 2012 Nightclub & Bar Awards, the only awards program where the industry’s best are selected by the industry’s best.

As the premier nightlife-industry recognition program, the Nightclub & Bar Awards feature a vigorous judging process. Venue owners, operators and managers, as well as suppliers, vendors and other industry members eager to recognize excellence in on-premise concepts, programs, talent and professionalism are invited to submit entries. Qualifying entries then are presented to an expert judging panel composed of top consultants, developers, educators, writers, editors and trainers in the industry. The judges rank their first, second and third choices for each category; a mathematical calculation identifies the finalists and, ultimately, the winners, based on the judges’ ballots.

Those of us at Nightclub & Bar are proud to showcase a selection of shining examples of originality, artistry, enterprise and prosperity — qualities essential to not only surviving but thriving in the modern nightlife industry. Many Winners will be at the 2012 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas, March 12-14. Be sure to watch them walk the Red Carpet and receive their awards on March 13!

A big thanks goes out to all of this year’s competitors as well as the judges who carefully considered hundreds of entries. Keep an eye on in the coming weeks for the winning profiles of the Nightclub and Las Vegas Nightclub Categories. And be sure to join Nightclub & Bar and toast the winners in Las Vegas!

Megan Hernandez
Digital Content Director

Nightclub & Bar Media Group

Nightclub & Bar 2012 Bartender of the Year

Russell Davis, Rickhouse
San Francisco, Calif.

From Southern Gentleman to San Fran Businessman, Russell Davis is the ‘Aristocrat of the Working Class’

On the West Coast, it’s not often you see a cowboy behind the bar. But Nightclub & Bar's 2012 Bartender of the Year Russell Davis, a born-and-bred Texan, likes to stay true to his roots — and he’s got the hat and boots to prove it.

“I knew how to drive a tractor before I knew how to drive a car,” Davis laughs.Russell Davis

Now far removed from the small-town peach farm he grew up on, Davis currently is working the stick at San Francisco’s Rickhouse. Previously the bar manager at Peche in Austin, Texas, and president of the Austin Chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG), Davis has a stellar resume after spending almost a decade in the bar business. Most recently, Davis:

• Was Named Nightclub & Bar’s October 2011 Bartender of the Month.
• Swept up the People's Choice/Best of the Fest Award for San Francisco Magazine's Eco Cocktail Competition at 2011 SF Bay Fall Fest.
• Took second place (and top human bartender honors) at Lush Life Production’s Humans vs. Robots Bartender Competition during 2011 Portland Cocktail Week.
• Represented Rickhouse at Gran Marnier’s 2010 Bar Room Brawl in New Orleans.
• Won first place at the 2010 Germain-Robin/Craft Distiller’s Cocktail Competition in San Francisco.


With several new projects on the horizon, Davis doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Currently, Davis is consulting on a non-alcohol drinks menu for San Francisco’s The Ice Cream Bar. However, alcohol-free doesn’t mean “simple.”

“Not working with alcohol has been the most challenging part of my career,” he says.

For the full profile, click here!

—Megan Hernandez

Nightclub & Bar 2012 Beer Bar of the Year

Bierhaus NYC
New York City

With an authentic “Oktoberfest year round” atmosphere that attracts visitors from across the globe, Bierhaus NYC has established Bierhausitself as one of the nation’s most well-known beer houses in a very short period of time. Opening its doors on March 10, 2011, Bierhaus NYC is a Bavarian-style restaurant and bar located in the heart of New York City. Inspired by an actual beer house — Hofbräuhaus München in Germany — the theme and décor help patrons feel as though they are half way across the world in Bavaria. Filled with long wooden tables used for communal seating, a 50-foot balcony and a glass ceiling, it’s no wonder this beer house has made it to the top.

Bierhaus NYC’s full-service bar offers 24 taps and six varieties of the most famous and beloved German beer, Hofbräu, that changes with the seasons to keep guests coming back for more. Even if new guests are unfamiliar with the beer selection, there’s no need to worry. Bartenders and servers go through a comprehensive training in which they taste each of the beers with various food parings. Staff members also are able to relate each beer’s taste and body to others with which guests might be more familiar.

It is truly the staff's dedication to the theme and guest experience that has helped define Bierhaus NYC’s success. Staying true to the theme and educating guests on Oktoberfest traditions helps the bar offer a lively and fun atmosphere unlike any other in NYC.  “Erst mach dein Sach dann trink und lach!” First take care of business, then drink and laugh!

—Kristen Santoro

Nightclub & Bar 2012 Cocktail Lounge of the Year

Rum Bar

Located just off of Philadelphia’s famed Rittenhouse Square, Rum Bar offers a unique atmosphere that is the perfect balance between upbeatRum Bar and intimate.  With a carefully designed and evolving cocktail menu, owner/mixologist Adam Kanter stretches his guests’ palates. The cocktail lounge stands out from the competition is because the staff is “devoted to a central idea,” Kanter says. 

With a menu nicknamed “The Rum Anthology,” Rum Bar has been defined as the area’s premier place to sample this complex and spellbinding spirit. Boasting more than 200 rums and two infused rums that change weekly — ranging from cucumber to chili pepper and beyond — labeling Kanter a “rum enthusiast” is an understatement.

Not familiar with this complex spirit? Try a flight! Rum Bar’s flight program is the perfect opportunity for sampling and expanding one's rum knowledge. Highly trained bartenders introduce patrons to the spirit, catering to their levels of knowledge. Not a rum enthusiast? The bartenders are more than willing to provide sufficient information on other spirits and cocktails to elevate the guest experience. A unique wine program featuring select vintages hailing only from South America compliments this cocktail haven.

—Kristen Santoro

Nightclub & Bar 2012 Hotel Bar of the Year

Grant Grill
San Diego

With an innovative and strategic partnership that strives to remain on the cutting edge, Grant Grill has been revitalized to become one of Grant Grilldowntown San Diego’s most thriving hotel bars.

Formerly known as an old boy’s hangout and housed in the iconic 100-year-old US Grant Hotel, the Grant Grill has risen to become a foremost craft-cocktail lounge led by Mixologist, Certified Sommelier and Director of Outlets Jeff Josenhans. “We keep pushing the envelope every quarter with groundbreaking ideas, such as our barrel-aged Manhattan, the rooftop cocktail garden and currently Cocktails Sur Lie; (each one has) contributed to adding wind to our sails,” Josenhans says.

Through these creative new programs, Grant Grill draws locals and visitors with its standout approach to not only drinks but service as well. The one-of-a-kind hotel-bar experience is complemented by a well-trained bar staff that conducts frequent cocktail tastings, partners with the local United States Bartenders’ Guild chapter and undergoes training on the techniques and ingredients needed to knowledgably recommend the perfect cocktail for each guest’s tastes. 

But no bar visit is complete without exceptional bar food! That’s exactly what Grant Grill offers with its endless menu options. From the Fried Egg Sandwich to the Kobe Beef Sliders and housemade ketchup, each bite is a tasty and cocktail-friendly way to enjoy a delicious evening out.

Grant Grill is a timeless venue that continues to thrill guests with its urban energy and accessible elegance.

—Kristen Santoro

Nightclub & Bar 2012 Sports Bar of the Year

Bull & Bear

It often takes a duel between a bull and a bear to unite a town that is divided by north- and south-side baseball loyalties! With a nod to Bull & Bearchampion sports teams and a wink to the stock market, Bull & Bear is a thriving sports bar. Equipped with state-of-the-art viewing capabilities and complete with lunch, dinner and weekend brunch menus, Bull & Bear sets the tone for the energy and excitement of any game.

Bull & Bear utilizes classic, rustic elements with a modern twist to establish an upscale atmosphere. The space offers a stoic travertine bar and handcrafted tufted leather banquette seating that provides unparalleled viewing capabilities of at least one of the bar’s 27 TVs. The 36-foot stock-market ticker reflects Chicago’s deep history while displaying the latest sports scores. One of the highlights for guests is, of course, the personal table taps. This game-changing technology allows Bull & Bear to stand out from thousands of sports bars as one of only a handful of bars in the country that offers table taps, drawing in regulars for every game.

But it’s not just Chicagoans who have grown to love this sports bar. Many sports players and celebrities who call Chicago home have become loyal customers. In fact, the Blackhawks have their very own booth in the back corner. Even out-of-town players make their way to Bull & Bear during trips to the Windy City.

By exceeding customer’s expectations and providing a new standard of customer service, the Bull & Bear is changing the standard for sports bars across the country by satisfying guests with the essentials: a cold beer, a good game and a great time!

—Kristen Santoro

Nightclub & Bar 2012 Small Wonder Bar of the Year

The Ivory Room Piano Bar
Madison, Wis.

Inspired by a multitude of piano bars in Chicago, co-owners Jack Sosnowski and Julie Stoleson wanted to bring a classy yet cozy feel to the Ivory RoomMadison area. The duo hit the right key with The Ivory Room Piano Bar. The intimate 900-square-foot space is a classic piano bar featuring both local and national acts nightly.

Located right off of Capitol Square in Madison, Wis., it’s hard not to be drawn inside, as patrons can see and hear the entertainment as they pass by the window. This unique spot offers daily and happy-hour drink specials as well as a Martini of the month. Filled with regulars who sing along to classic tunes as well as random adventurers, the Ivory Room welcomes anyone who is in the mood for a great melody.

Nightclub & Bar is not the only media group to recognize this small wonder bar: The establishment also has been featured in Madison Magazine, The State Journal, The Cap Times and many others. With a tone and mood that ranges from subdued to lively, the Ivory Room is a great place to end any night on a good note!

—Kristen Santoro


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