The competition challenged professional and amateur mixologists alike in creating an innovative and unique cocktail that incorporates Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur, Bärenjäger Honey & Bourbon, Bärenjäger Honey & Pear or Bärenjäger Honey & Tea.
The six contenders were picked out of 450 submissions across the country, and vied for the grand price of an all-expenses paid trip to “BEARlin,” Germany, in addition to a $1,000 cash prize. A panel of esteemed cocktail judges were there to knight “America’s Best Bartender” for the grand prize, but attends also got to put in their vote and “Bee the Judge,” awarding the people’s choice cocktail winner a $1,000 prize.
Naturally, the theme of the evening was OktoberFest, complete with Lederhosen, Bavarian Pretzels with Bärenjäger honey mustard, sweet sausage links, live entertainment from The Autobahnanz’s, and cocktails.
The six finalists were:
- Megan Bardoe from Miami, FL with Black Gold
- Jason Patz from Denver, CO with Oaxacan On Sunshine
- James Moore from Columbus, OH with Hair of the Bear
- Jason Holstein from Wilmington, DE with Jorge’s Bare!
- Patricia L Gavin from Minneapolis, MN with Oh, honey honey
- Michael Powers from Tulsa, OK with Sorcerer
There was an expert panel of judges presiding of the decision of who to crown as “America’s Best Bartender,” rating each cocktail based on creativity and execution. The judges include:
- Alex Guarnaschelli, Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef and Executive Chef at NYC’s Butter
- Andrew Knowlton, Restaurant & Drinks Editor Bon Appétit Magazine
- Gary Regan, Author of The Joy of Mixology and host of www.gazregan.com
- Leo Robitschek, Bar Director at Made Nice: Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad Hotel
- Sean Kenyon, Tales of the Cocktail 2014 American Bartender of the Year, proprietor of Williams & Graham in Denver, CO
The cocktail that won over the panel of judges was Black Gold by Megan Bardoe:
- 1 part Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur
- 2 parts Michter’s Rye Whiskey
- .25 parts Suze Saveur d’autrefois
- 3 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters
- garnish Filthy Food Black Cherry
In a mixing glass, add all ingredients except the cherry garnish with ice and stir. Strain into chilled coupe. Garnish one Filthy Food Black Cherry in bottom of the glass.
The “Bee the Judge” audience favorite, and also my pick, was the Sorcerer cocktail by Michael Powers:
- .75 parts Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur
- 1.5 parts Johnny Walker Black
- .75 parts Aperol
- .75 parts Sour
- 4 dashes Dashfire Vintage Orange No. 1 Bitters
- garnish Lime horseneck peel
Shake and double strain into a chilled Nick and Nora glass. Finish with an expressed lime horse neck peel.