Iron Bartender Finals: And the winner is...




Justin Park of Manifest.

Photo: Shaun Chillingworth

[Martha's on a juice cleanse. Kam's not. He judged last night's Bacardi Oakheart's Iron Bar Finals at The Republik—here's his report.]

Taking top honors was Justin Park of Manifest, then, in descending order to sixth place, Dave Newman (Pint & Jigger), Roxanne Siebert (V Lounge, Safehouse), Christian Self (39 Hotel), Alicia Yamachika (Nobu, Pint & Jigger, Uncle Bo's) and finally Mo Sanford (Safehouse).

A few quick notes:

The contestants in this invitational competition first had to wow the five judges with an original drink. My personal favorite was Yamachika's drink (I think she said it was called "La Vie en Rose" but it was pretty loud in there), a Hendrick's gin-based sour enlivened with rose water, cardamom and Campari. It was the most original of evening, with a terrific balance of spice, sweetness, sour and alcohol burn. After that I'd have to say Park's "Diamond & Dutch," a Prohibition-era flip style cocktail featuring egg whites to foam up bourbon, raw honey, blackberries and more, was great and I liked Sanford's "Up in Smoke," a rye-based cocktail topped with smoke-infused homemade walnut brittle, rich and dark as a cup of great coffee. Sanford—you could sell the brittle alone and it would be a hit! All six were good, these were my personal faves.


Alicia Yamachika of Nobu, Pint & Jigger, Uncle Bo's.

Photo: Shaun Chillingworth

There was a talent portion I could have done without. In real life, I'm not looking for my bartender to provide me with a juggling act, a comedic performance art piece or a dance routine. I gave top marks to Newman, who demonstrated how he makes a "Ghost Cocktail" for patrons who insist on a free drink and Sanford, who said he would open, I believe it was two cases of bottled beer, in under a minute—then did. I liked how these two displayed a talent that's applicable to their daily work. (Having said that, Park, your comedic performance art piece on liquors of the world was indeed funny.)

I joked with organizers that the talent portion ought to be a sympathy test, in which the judges pour out some sob story and the most sympathetic bartender, with the best advice, wins.

Christian Self of 39Hotel.

Photo: Shaun Chillingworth

Congratulations to the winners! My thanks to chief judge Joey Gottesman for the education through the night on the historic origins of the original cocktails, and to Flash for inviting me along for the ride, it was a blast.

Oh, a last comment for the three or four haters I passed on the way out of The Republik, muttering about how the contest was bogus and how "these things are always such b-------." I take it your favorite bartender didn't win? Get over it. I have better things to do with my time than spend six hours going through some sham of a contest, pretending to judge. I can tell you, the judges took this seriously, so did the organizers, and so, too, did all the contestants; the results are legit. And tasty. Haters, I suggest a pub crawl in which you visit all six bartenders and tell them, "Good job!"

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