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The Bacardi Legacacy Global Cocktail Competition is a bit different from other global cocktail competitions in that every bartender presents a single drink to the judges, rather than having multiple drink challenges and mystery ingredient competitions and speed rounds. The reason for this is that the goal of the competition is for the bartender to create a future classic cocktail, like the Daiquiri, that can and hopefully will be made around the globe for many years to come. (And of course, sell lots of Bacardi in the process.) While attendees at the 2014 competition in Moscow, Russia last week were... Read more →

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Today's post is written by Lou Bustamante, who travelled to Trinidad to witness the 2014 Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge. Lou is a contributor to publications including the SF Chronicle, SF Weekly and Wine & Spirits. On Sunday, March 2nd, on the eve of Carnival in Trinidad, The House of Angostura, producers of Angostura Rum and Angostura Aromatic Bitters, gathered 11 contestants from around the globe to compete in their Global Cocktail Contest. Each contestant had seven minutes to prepare two drinks, one rum based, and the other a freestyle cocktail. While the biggest challenge was certainly on stage in front... Read more →

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Update: Jared Anderson also won the national championship, and thus a trip to Iceland! See below for his winning recipe. Last night five bartenders competed in the San Francisco regionals of the Pavan Sangria Challenge. These were whittled down from many online entries to the final five by none other than Gaz Regan. This cocktail contest is interesting not only in that it's a sangria contest (playing to Pavan's South of France, hot-beachy roots) but also because the prize is determined by the winner. Bartenders chose a dream destination and had to make a sangria that embodied that trip. After... Read more →

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I helped judge the San Francisco semi-finals of the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience this week. The competition took place at Tradition in the Tenderloin, and my co-judges were Dave Smith, distiller at St. George Spirits, and Mollie Casey. Director of Spirit and Fortified Wine Sales for The Henry Wine Group. The goal of the contest was to make the best Manhattan variation using Woodford Reserve. Points were given for appeal of the drink, creativity/originality, appearance, and taste. When I think about what makes a Manhattan a Manhattan, I think: Serious, Somewhat Strong, Sweet, Bitter, and Balanced. (Sorry for the cruddy... Read more →

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This week over the course of two days I helped judge the San Francisco regionals of the Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender competition. We toured San Francisco and hit six bars to watch 8 bartenders make drinks. My co-judges were Borys Saciuk (former Michael Mina bartender, now with Bacardi), Dominic Venegas (former SF bartender at venues including Range, Bacar, and Smuggler's Cove, now at NOMAD in NYC), and Aaron Gregory Smith (operating partner at 15 Romolo and USBG national vice-president). Brian Means of Fifth Floor Restaurant created the Stone's Throw, a reference to stone fruit, made with Bombay Sapphire, roasted... Read more →

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During Tales of the Cocktail this July in New Orleans, I helped judge the Merlet Sidecar Competition, along with Audrey Saunders of the Pegu Club, Chad Solomon of Cuff & Buttons, and last year's winner Mike Yen of San Diego. I was excited for the competition, as the Sidecar has always been a problematic cocktail for me, tasting flat and flabby most of the time. In my opinion, it could use some freshening. And that's just what it had. The finalists were: Nicholas Bennet of Booker & Dax - New York Lucinda Sterling of Middle Branch - New York Monroe... Read more →

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This year I was fortunate to attend Diageo's World Class Global Finals 2013, aboard the Azamara Journey cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea. This was my third World Class final, after Delhi in 2011 and Rio in 2012. This year I was working with DiffordsGuide.com to produce both a daily newsletter aboard the ship and information for an all-World Class write-up that is now online. Most of the time I was copying down recipes and reformatting them. By my count, there were 520 cocktails made in the challenges by the bartenders over a 5-day period. While we had a couple... Read more →

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The Auchentoshan Switch is a contest for bartenders with a pretty great prize: 14 days staging in one of two of the best bars in the world. The winning American or Canadian bartender will get to work at Nightjar in London, ranked the third best bar in the world. This bar has the most spectacular garnish presentations you will ever see. The winning bartender from the UK, Sweden, or Germany will work at The Dead Rabbit in New York, a spectucular new bar that has garnered raves from the press and industry folks. They have a vintage cocktail program that... Read more →

Camper's Book: Tonic Water AKA G&T WTF is now available for sale.