This article was written by past Local Food Program Director, Steve Russell.
This year’s Bartending Competition was a huge success! We absolutely packed the Crescent Ballroom, with nearly 400 attendees and more cocktails than you could… well, drink! With eight bars participating in the competition, there was plenty of shaking and tasting going on—and these bartenders brought their finest!
The event featured Arizona Distilling Company’s debut “Desert Dry Gin” and its “Copper City Bourbon”—both liquors have incredibly complex flavor profiles, so the bartenders had a lot to go with. There were many an unexpected twist on a whiskey sour, and some sultry citrus and gin drinks—and even an unexpected carrot juice cocktail made the mix. But, it was Mike Allmandinger of The Parlor Pizzeria who took the big trophy, with a simple, elegantly balanced, and beautifully garnished cocktail, appropriately named The “Parlor Star.”
We gave out five more awards in addition, to spread the love and thank our competitors for their participation. Best Dressed was a tight race with Ryan Richardson of Kazimierz World Wine Bar almost snatching it up. But ultimately the award went to the dapper bar manager, Matt Tobey of District American Kitchen and Wine Bar. Best Garnish went to the carrot king, Manny Peña of The Windsor, though I hear it was a very tight run between he and Jax Gonzalez of the Café at Phoenix Public Market. Richie Moe of The Gladly swept the rest of the awards out from Josh James of The Clever Koi and Evan Gibbs of Maizie’s Café & Bistro, taking home Best Performance, Best Presentation, and even the People’s Choice Award!
We have to make sure to thank everyone who helped make this year’s competition, our fifth annual, a monumentous success! Thank you, Megan Finnerty, MC and our wonderful panel of Judges: Layla Linn, Jason Asher, Jessica Hill and Kyle Landry. Also, thanks again to our wonderful sponsors: Crescent Ballroom, Arizona Distilling Co., Total Transit/Discount Cab, Brand X and Accurate Signs and Engraving. Our live band, Ruca and DJ Smite were both great. Lastly, we could not have done it without our amazing ALFA volunteers!
See you next year!