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Ben Carrington Wins the Popular Vote at the Most Imaginative Bartender competition

La Biblioteca bartender Ben Carrington serves up The Recluse.
La Biblioteca bartender Ben Carrington serves up The Recluse.
Kevin Galaba

Is Ben Carrington Denver's most creative bartender? The people have voted -- over 500 of them, who all jammed onto an outdoor patio at the Four Seasons hotel and selected Carrington's cocktail as the winner at Monday's Most Imaginative Bartender competition. The annual event, sponsored by Bombay Sapphire and GQ magazine, pitted ten Colorado bartenders against each other in a display of inspired mixology. The enthusiastic crowd mingled by the pool and jostled their way through an array of bars to sip, savor...and vote.

See also: Top Taco Margarita Throw Down at Sculpture Park

Over 500 people mingled, danced, drank and voted at Bombay Sapphire's Most Imaginative Bartender competition at the Four Seasons.
Over 500 people mingled, danced, drank and voted at Bombay Sapphire's Most Imaginative Bartender competition at the Four Seasons.
Kevin Galaba

It's been a good year for Carrington. After recently relocating to Colorado from Ohio, he landed a job at La Biblioteca, a sibling restaurant next to Richard Sandoval's Zengo and started entering cocktail competitions. At Top Taco, a margarita mix-off held at Denver Sculpture Park in June, Carrington won the people's choice award with the RDA (or Recommended Daily Allowance) containing Dulce Vida tequila, chile-spiced syrup and avocado puree, and garnished with blueberry-infused tapioca pearls.

For the Most Imaginative Bartender competition, Carrington created a drink called The Recluse, which contained Bombay Sapphire gin, smoked hibiscus syrup and sparkling pear cider. All those ingredients were shaken over ice, and poured into a large cocktail glass that was rimmed with fennel pollen and lime salt. Accenting the pear cider, Carrington garnished the drink with one thin pear slice.

Ten bartenders competed in two rounds, and were also judged by a panel of three tasting judges and three "blind" judges, who were individual portions of each of the ten cocktails without knowing who created the drink. The blind panel consisted of Mike Henderson (Root Down, Linger), Allison Widdecombe (Williams & Graham) and sommelier William Davis.

While Carrington won the popular vote, the judges came to their own conclusions:

First Place: Tacy Rowland from BOL (Vail).

Second Place: Glenn Pollak from Oak at Fourteenth

Third Place: Ken Kodys from Breckenridge Brewery Group.

Rowland's winning cocktail, which she called The Gemaicha Cocktail, contained Bombay Sapphire gin, St. Germain, lemon juice, a few dashes of rice vinegar, a green tea she brewed with anise, caraway and white pepper, and a syrup she infused with Basmati rice and Thai basil. The Gemaicha Cocktail was shaken over ice, poured into a coupe glass, and garnished with a star anise flower.

"I was inspired by the tradition and longevity of Bombay Sapphire," Rowland says. "When I started thinking of other traditions, tea time came to mind, but the botanicals are so far-reaching and exotic that I had to think of tea times in places other than England, which brought me to Japan and incorporating green tea and rice with specific botanicals to showcase the Bombay Sapphire."

Tacy Rowland, a bartender at BOL in Vail, shaking up her winning drink for judges.
Tacy Rowland, a bartender at BOL in Vail, shaking up her winning drink for judges.
Kevin Galaba

Being named Most Imaginative Bartender by the judging panel earned Rowland an all-inclusive trip to Las Vegas to compete in the national competition on September 8. "As far as winning the Colorado competition, I am hugely honored," Rowland continues. "It took me by surprise, as I have so much respect for both the bartenders I was competing against as well as the judges, and I am very excited to represent this amazing community in Vegas."

Twenty-nine cities are participating in Bombay's annual competition this year; Denver is the spirit's biggest market. All cocktail recipes are required to contain Bombay Sapphire, with a maximum of six ingredients. Bartenders were encouraged to create a cocktail that enhanced or accentuated one or more of the ten botanicals in Bombay Sapphire: almond, lemon peel, licorice, juniper berries, orris root, angelica, coriander, cassia, cubeb and grains of paradise.

Keep reading for more photos, and a complete list of all ten cocktails...

Anthony Bohlinger of Chef's Club by Food and Wine in Aspen.
Anthony Bohlinger of Chef's Club by Food and Wine in Aspen.
Kevin Galaba

Slow It Down

Anthony Bohlinger, Chef's Club by Food and Wine

1.5 oz. spirulina-infused Bombay Sapphire

.75 oz. lemon juice

.75 bee pollen syrup

5 dashes Lem-Marrakech bitters

3 slices of Asian pear

Garnish: dash of black pepper

Bombay Love Potion 63

Haylee Ortiz, Session Kitchen

1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire

.5 oz Benedictine

.5 oz lemon juice

.5 oz tarragon syrup

muddled lychees

Garnish: lychees

Pining For Victoria

Kenny Kodys, Breckenridge Brewery Group

1.5 ox Bombay Sapphire

.75 Dram Apothecary pine syrup

1.75 oz. Teakowe Kodiak mint tea

5-10 mint sprigs

Crushed pink cherry blossom ice

Garnish: Fleurs de Bulgare perfume

The Recluse

Benjamin Carringon, La Biblioteca

1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire

1 oz smoked hibiscus syrup

1.5 oz. sparkling pear cider

Fennel pollen/lime salt rim

Garnish: pear slice

Fit for a Countess

Colin Dart, Argyll Whisky Beer

1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin

.75 cat nip liqueur

.5 oz. dry vermouth

.25 oz. verjus

3 dashes Grandpa's juniper bitters

Garnish: sliced apple and cat nip leaf

Kenny Kodys of Breckenridge Brewery Group.
Kenny Kodys of Breckenridge Brewery Group.
Kevin Galaba

The Trail Runner

Glenn Pollak, Oak at Fourteenth

1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin

.5 oz. Martini Gran Lusso vermouth

.75 oz. lemon juice

1 oz. apricot/almond syrup

.5 oz ginger beer

2 drops Fee Brothers black walnut bitters

The Wilder Pryor

Brittany Wangsness, TAG

1 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin

.75 Lillet Rose

.5 oz. Campari

.5 oz. ruby red grapefruit juice

.5 oz. lemon juice

.5 oz. watermelon syrup

Garnish: chilled watermelon ball

Louis Esposito, of Sage Restaurant Group.
Louis Esposito, of Sage Restaurant Group.
Kevin Galaba

The Gemaicha Cocktail

Tacy Rowland, BOL

1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin

.5 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur

1 oz. Sencha green tea

.75 oz. Thai basil/Basmati rice syrup

.5 oz. lemon juice

2 dashes rice vinegar

Garnish: Thai basil leaf and star anise flower

Nate Maston explains his cocktail concept to the judges.
Nate Maston explains his cocktail concept to the judges.
Kevin Galaba

Watermelon Queen

Nathanial Maston, Oak at Fourteenth

1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin

.75 oz. ginger/sherry honey syrup

.5 oz. lemon

.25 Pierre Ferrand dry curaƧao

Rinse of aquavit

Garnish: watermelon foam and carbonated watermelon cube

Tricks and Colors

Louis Esposito, Sage Restaurant Group

1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin

.5 oz. Martini Gran Lusso vermouth

.5 oz. ginger/mint syrup

.5 oz. lemon juice

.25 oz. salt water

4 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Garnish: fresh mint leaves

In a private room, the "blind" judges determine the Most Imaginative Bartender in Colorado.
In a private room, the "blind" judges determine the Most Imaginative Bartender in Colorado.
Kevin Galaba