Global Spirits & American Cocktails Battle it Out at History Happy Hour

Left to right: Rachel Burkons, Amie Ward, Aaron Joseph, Mary Kelly and Juan Coronado. Photo: Pepe Gomez Photography

Part of the National Archives Foundation’s History Happy Hour series, a recent cocktail showdown paired bartenders’ creativity with products from around the world.


Where else but in Washington, DC, can you sip cocktails while standing a few feet away from the Constitution and Declaration of Independence?

That’s exactly what guests were able to do on June 29, 2017, when the Archives hosted (and The Tasting Panel Magazine sponsored) a cocktail competition called “Global Spirits: American Cocktails.” It was all part of the ongoing History Happy Hour series created by bartender, writer, consultant and chief spirits advisor Derek Brown that examines the history and influence of drinks and spirits in the United States, emceed by Bacardí brand ambassador and cocktail innovator Juan Coronado and Tasting Panel vice president and associate publisher Rachel Burkons

Nine bartenders from the Washington, DC area, Baltimore and Richmond were tasked with creating an original drink that highlighted a particular base booze brand – and the drink needed to have an American connection of some kind. Four judges (Meridith May, executive editor and publisher of The Tasting Panel; Dane Nakamura, corporate beverage director with Voltaggio Restaurant Group; archivist of the United States David Ferriero; and bartender and educator Duane Sylvestre) rated the libations on taste, presentation and connection.

Taking the third place prize of $500 was Amie Ward, who serves as beverage director for R Bar in Baltimore, who created a cocktail based on a brand-new product launching this fall. Rosa 22 is artisanally produced in the Piedmont region of Italy at a winery that’s over a hundred years old. It mixes 22 botanicals, including mandarin orange, cardamom and bay leaves, steeped in grain alcohol in stainless steel tanks, resulting in a drink with an attractive pink color and a delicate sweet character marked by hints of rosemary and grapefruit that’s meant to appeal to those who aren’t fans of the more bitter apéritifs on the market. She replaced the triple sec in her Cosmopolita with Rosa 22, which also contained a housemade lime cordial, housemade cranberry citrus syrup, and lime bitters, garnished with cranberry fruit leather. (She joked that the garnish was actually supposed to be a cranberry wafer, but it was too humid in the restaurant kitchen.)  “It’s super crushable, beautiful and approachable,” she mused about her drink; the judges agreed.

Urban Frontier cocktail by Mary Kelly of Graffiato in Washington, DC - History Happy Hour promotion
The Urban Frontier by Mary Kelly. Photo credit: Pepe Gomez Photography

Mary Kelly, bar manager at Mike Isabella’s restaurant Graffiato in Washington, DC, took home the second place prize of $750 for what she deemed an aperitivo-style, before-dinner sipper. The Urban Frontier’s base was Sagamore Rye, made in Baltimore with naturally filtered limestone water from a spring house built at Sagamore Farm in 1909 that was once owned by the Vanderbilt Family. The spicy brown spirit was mixed with amontillado sherry for depth, Amero Amaro (a Napa Valley-produced, grape-based amaro), a syrup made with chamomile and lemon, and a few dashes of orange bitters. “It’s what I would want to drink at a picnic,” she admitted.

A rum-based concoction with a literary connection took home the first place prize of $1000. Papa’s Pilar Rum, named for Ernest Hemingway’s boat, is produced in one of the author’s favorite cities, Key West, in two styles: blonde (aged three to five years) and dark (aged 24 years). Aaron Joseph, beverage director at R Bar in Baltimore, used both in his Glee of a Nation, a cocktail inspired by the tiki classic Missionary’s Downfall. He shook them with lime and pineapple juices and tropical green tea honey syrup, and served it on the rocks garnished with peach leaves and a tropical flower. As pretty to look at as it was to sip, it was a sip with super strong American ties.

After the shaking was finished and the winners were announced, attendees moved to a reception where they were able to try all 9 drinks and decide for themselves which ones they thought were the winners.

Glee of a National cocktail recipe by Aaron Joseph at R Bar - History Happy Hour promotion
Glee of a Nation

Recipe courtesy of Aaron Joseph, beverage director, R Bar; Photo credit: Pepe Gomez Photography

  • 1 oz. Papa’s Pilar Blonde rum
  • ½ oz. Papa’s Pilar Dark Rum
  • ½ oz. Lime juice
  • ¼ oz. Pineapple juice
  • ¾ oz. Tropical green tea honey syrup
  • 4-5 peach tree leaves
  • Peach leaves and tropical flower, for garnish

Add all ingredients except the garnish to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, and garnish with the peach leaves and tropical flower.


Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.

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