OK, can I just say I am having a blast finding out about all the things you may be missing here in KC. I am meeting some incredible people, eating delectable food, enjoying amazing cocktails and learning about all sorts of events, going on right here in Kansas City.
One such event coming up is The Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition. This is the Midwest’s largest bartending competition. This year, bartenders from all over the country submitted their unique cocktails for consideration in the Competition.
Twelve finalists were chosen and this is where the amazing cocktails come into play. I had the opportunity to catch up with a few of the finalist and get a sneak peak and taste for what is in store come Sunday at the completion.
First up was Van Zarr from bluestem. Van has been bar tending for 6 years and this is his 4th year competing. His drink is called the Light of Day. It consists of a Basil infused Vermouth, Tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, Lemongrass Grapefruit soda (which was made especially for him from the guys at Soda Vie and the GetReal Food Company) and it is poured over a saffron infused lemonade ice cube.
This drink is like 2 in 1. Talk about a lemonade for grownups, though it really should not be compared to lemonade. It is much more intricate with the infusion of the vermouth and ice cube. The first sip is refreshing and light, but then as it sits and the ice cube melts the flavor becomes much more intense and citrusy……and that is not a bad thing.
Next up was Jennifer Tosatto of Firefly Lounge. Jennifer has been bar tending 7 years and this is her 3rd year competing. Her drink is the 9 to 5. That is the perfect name for this drink because I could have drunk it all day! Jennifer’s drink includes Gin, Yellow Chartreuse, Saffron, Lemon Juice, Orange Blossom Water, Soda and Tonic.
What I loved about this cocktail was the garnish. Jennifer added an Orange Blossom scented rock candy stir. This drink was a wonderful mix of orange and lemon and was strong but balanced, it starts out a bit savory, and as the rock candy garnish sits in the drink it becomes sweeter, which I really liked.
Wanting to play on the flavors of Chicken Mole and the Mexican soft drink Horchata, he created the El Remolino, which means swirl is Spanish. I thought “Chicken Mole in a drink, really?” But what the heck I’m game so bring it on, and Anthony did just that. The drink included Ancho and Cinnamon infused Tequila, Liquor 43, Agave and Rice Milk Syrup, Lime, Egg White and Chocolate Bitters.
With the first sip of this drink, you get the chocolate then a hint of cinnamon and then, bam! the heat from the ancho hits and it is a sweet burn.
Oh geeze, I have to taste another? Oh this is torture!
Well OK, if you insist…..Contestant number 4 come on down. It is none other than Chris Conaster of Justus Drugstore and winner of the competition in 2008. Chris has been bar tending for 3 years. Chris has a background in Botany and used that knowledge to create Tit for Tat. The drink includes Gin infused with Wild Carrot Tops (sometimes known as Queen Anne’s Lace) and Calamus Root, Simple Syrup, Lemon Juice, Aqua Perfecta Pear Eau de Vie and Celery Bitters.
What a combination. The aroma had hints of orange and the taste had all sorts of things going on. Carrot, Carraway, Corriander, lemon and pear. Even with such a mix of complex flavors, this drink was very light and refreshing.
I know you may be thinking this girl is getting sloshed! So I do need to make something clear before I continue. I was only having taste of these cocktails. This only amounted to a sip or two, with the exception of the next drink which I pretty much polished off!
It was from Paige Unger of McCormick and Schmicks. She has only been bar tending about a year and entered the competition on a dare. Paige has decided that most cocktails created by a man with the female palette in mind are still missing a woman’s touch.
With that in mind, she wanted to created a drink that both women and men could enjoy, so she came up with the Socialite. This drink includes Meyer Lemon Juice, Cane Rum, Lillet Blanc, Simple Syrup, Lemon Bitters, Orange Bitters and is topped with a Mandarin Lavender Foam and Blackcurrent Cordial “Caviar”
I must say Paige is going to have quite a career ahead of her. The woman’s touch she added is magic. I believe she hit the nail on the head and that both women and men will not just enjoy this drink but may actually flip over it, I did!
For those of you who don’t know me I am a lavender nut. It is like Forrest Gump at my house. You will find lavender candles, lavender diffusers, lavender body lotion, lavender powder, lavender body scrub, lavender laundry soap, well I am sure you get the picture. I even have lavender honey and some lavender chocolate in my pantry! Not to mention fresh lavender growing in my herb garden, I know I am a bit eccentric.
This drink had my name written all over it. The aroma of the lavender was intoxicating and the taste amazing. I have never had anything like it. The lemon and orange paired perfectly and was slightly sweet. The lavender and mandarin foam added a whole other level of flavor that is just indescribably delicious.
Last up, Jason Kimbrel of JP Wine Bar. He has been bar tending for 7 years and this is first time entering. His drink is the Bobby Burnside. This drink starts out by scenting the glass with Frangelico. The ingredients include Fresh Orange, Mole Bitters, Whiskey and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur.
Jason wanted to keep the drink simple and use ingredients to pull out the flavors in the whiskey. The scent of the Frangelico and the flavors in the whiskey made this drink a delight as well. The garnish for this drink is flamed orange zest and Jason literally had a lighter and flamed the zest.
He also paired the drink with a shortbread cookie. The cookie had a homemade icing made with white chocolate orange oil, chocolate bitters and whiskey. Forget the milk and cookies, let’s do cocktails and cookies. I think he is on to something here. I would say if by the slim chance Jason does not make it in the bar tending business he should go into the bakery business!
I do have on more to mention and that is Mark Church of Grunauer. I actually had his cocktail the night before at the Traveling Cocktail Club event at Grunauer. His cocktail is The Refined Austrian Cocktail. It includes Gin, Brandy, Aromatized Lillet Rouge, Edel Kirsch liqueur and aromatic bitters.
This drink was stout and delish. This is definitely one to sip on. The garnish on this is a grilled orange. If you are one of those people that don’t eat the garnishes let me tell you, this one is a must. The orange had a wonderful smokey flavor and paired beautifully with the flavors in the drink.
Other contestants include: Heather Price of The Piano Room, Valdez Campos of Café Trio, Travis Stewart of 4 Olives Wine Bar in Manhattan, KS, TJ Vytacil of Franco Restaurant and Chris Muether of Danno’s American Pub both of which are in St. Louis. I am really looking forward to Sunday where I will be able to taste the rest of these!
Judges this year include Ryan Maybee, Doug Frost, Katie Van Luchene and Ted Kilgore. And from what I can tell, I am thinking they have tough job ahead!
I had an amazing time meeting all these contestants and want to thank them for sharing their cocktails with me. I also owe a big to thank you Amanda Frederickson of Pigs Fly PR for getting them all together.
The contestants were asked if they were more nervous now that they have seen their competition, most of them said yes. I would have to say all these contestants have a chance at winning. They are an amazingly talented group of bartenders. Watching them prepare these drinks and seeing the thought and flavors that go into them has really opened my eyes to the bar tending scene. It truly is an art, and we are lucky to have such talented liquid artist here in KC!
The Bartending Competition will have tasting tables for attendees to sample the contestant’s drinks. I hope I have enticed you enough that you will take the time to attend. The audience will be able to text in votes and an “audience favorite” winner will be chosen.
The Bartending Competition is Sunday, August 29th 6:00 p.m. at the Uptown Theatre. Tickets are $15 and are available online or at the door. Ticket includes admission, drink token to the tasting room, access to main theater to view the competition, live music and entertainment and tasting and samples from area restaurants incuding The Drop, Grunauer, R Bar and blanc.
For additional information regarding the Bartending Competition, visit the GKCBC website. The contestant’s recipes are available on the website as well. Go to the contestants page and then when you click on a contestant photo you will see their bio and recipe.
Make sure you don’t miss this KC! See you there!
And as always, if you have a great food find in KC you think I’m missing Email me
In Good Taste,