The 4th Annual Devour Phoenix Bartending Competition was the biggest celebration yet of Phoenix's local bartending talent. And what incredible talent we have! About 250 people sipped, critiqued, and watched as 11 of Phoenix's top bartenders battled for the high honor of being named this year's King or Queen of the cocktail mixer.
The Crescent Ballroom was a gracious and spacious host for the festivities, with the competitors lined up handing out samples while others took turns mixing their creations on the stage. A DJ set the mood with some groovy dance tunes as the soundtrack for our drink sampling.
The challenge for the bartenders was to use locally-distilled Arroyo Vodka to create a unique cocktail to wow the crowd and judges. And the competition was fierce. With flavors ranging from spicy to fruity to "the floral taste of a woman just after she gets out of the shower," it was certainly difficult to pick a favorite. I loved the ginger-spiced concoction from Jane Davidson of Maize's Cafe, as well as the tangy blood orange martini from John Hopkins of Hula's Modern Tiki.
Waiting for the winners to be announced, you could see the sweat beaming from the nervous competitors on stage. Maize's Cafe took home the People's Choice Award, while Josh James of The Parlor Pizzeria was awarded 1st Runner Up for his creation "The VNT" - rosemary infused Arroyo Vodka, house-made lemongrass tonic and key lime bitters. But in what turned out to be the upset of the evening, Kyle Landry of Shady's Fine Ales and Cocktails won the big prize with his "Second Rhine Around" - Arroyo Vodka, lemon juice, orange rhine tea infused bitters, absinthe, orange bitters, and orange zest.
I would also like to highlight Megan Finnerty of the Arizona Republic for doing a stellar job as MC of the evening - her great wit and humor nicely complimented the tasty drinks!
Overall, the event seemed to be a huge success, and I am excited to visit some of these restaurants to sample a full-sized cocktail!