Battle for the Alii Cup: Jim Beam cocktail competition

The three cocktail finalists: Noe-body Knows the Trouble I've Seen (in the martini glass, by Chad Pata of Murphy's Bar and Grill), Uhane Umami (in the mason jar, by Stephen Tam Loo from Sansei), and When Pigs Fly (by Justin Whiting of Manifest). Photo by Shaun Chillingworth.

Last night at the Kahala Hotel, bartenders from ten local establishments faced off in a showdown of whiskey drinks, closing out the Fred Noe Aloha Tour in which the 7th generation Jim Beam master distiller made his first Hawaii visit.

Up for grabs was a VIP trip to the Jim Beam plant, $10,000 in advertising money, a Devil's Cut electric guitar signed by Noe, and the chance to keep the towering Ali'i Cup trophy displayed for six months.

For me, stand-outs included: Christina Maffei's (Hilton Hawaiian Village) Bourbon County Cooler, a refreshingly nutty drink that combined Knob Creek Bourbon, white creme de cacao, cinnamon syrup, Kona peaberry coffee, black walnut bitters and fresh mint; and Justin Whiting's (Manifest) When Pigs Fly, a delightfully balanced, spirit-forward drink using bacon fat-washed Basil Hayden's Bourbon (a process that essentially infuses bacon into the bourbon), maraschino, Amaro Ciociaro, Cynar, chocolate bitters and orange zest.

Many of the other drinks were sugary-sweet and or had elements that covered the whiskeys.

Winning the competition though, was the crowd favorite, the Uhane Umami by Stephen Tam Loo of Sansei. Loo used Jacob's Ghost, the first venture for Jim Beam into the growing world of white whiskey, along with rosemary simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, fresh lychee, and the Italian aperitif Aperol, which rounded off the sweeter corners of the drink with a slight bitterness and soft pink hue. 

For more photos of the cocktails and bartenders, see HONOLULU's photo gallery of the Battle for the Alii Cup cocktail competition.