On Monday, November 5, Colt & Gray will be the stamping ground for a bartender's dream, especially those who have an affinity for cognac -- very good cognac. Six local cocktail magicians -- Melissa Durant (Green Russell); Carla Chang Sandoval (Hillstone Group); Anthony Giovanni (Gaetano's); Jason Patz (Williams & Graham); Justin Lavenue (Bitter Bar); and Adam Hodak (Bonanno Concepts) -- are participating in a cognac shakedown down, wherein the winner will be crowned the Cognac Ferrand Master of Hospitality and Mountain Mixology, which according to bar man around town Matty Durgin, who's also the brand development liaison for Cognac Ferrand, won't be easy.
"As a barman, I believe that anyone can put on a show for ten minutes, present three perfect drinks and move on, but it's a whole different playing field when you add the element of a real-time service, different variables, teamwork and hospitality," he says, noting that the competition requires the bartenders, who were selected based on recipes they submitted using Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 (which was awarded Best New Product at the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail) to compete one-on-one, two at a time and concoct six drinks during a twenty-minute service in front of guests and a team of judges.
"Bartenders create drinks, which is part of our job, but our main focus is to get people comfortable and guide their experience so that they get exactly what they want, and that's an element that we added to our mix-off," explains Durgin. The competition, he adds, is "meant to attract discerning bartenders who are equally passionate about the delivery of service as they are about the the presentation of their cocktails. This is meant to be a spirited, humility-based competition where the bartenders are allowed to show their personalities and their unique talents among their peers and their community."
The event, which will be judged by Rhonda Follrath, COO of Boca Loca Cachaca; Anika Zappe, the beverage director at Punch Bowl Social Food & Drink and Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar; James Lee, co-owner of the Bitter Bar; and a surprise judge (wonder who that could be), gets underway at 6:30 p.m., and includes charcuterie and snacks from Colt & Gray, $4 craft cocktails by Pierre Ferrand and punch.
"We're a family company, and I'm one of only 25 people worldwide that help make the House of Ferrand go 'round, and we're blessed to have so many talented bartenders and cocktail bars support our humble spirits," says Durgin, who's proctoring the battle along with Kevin Burke, who oversees Colt & Gray's innovative bar program.
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The winning bartender receives a personalized Pierre Ferrand bottle, the coveted mountain title and an opportunity to compete in the final competition, and the event is free and open to the public, but in order to snag a front-row seat, you must RSVP. No one, insists Durgin, will be allowed through the doors without confirmation. Want to go? Shoot an e-mail saying as much to firstname.lastname@example.org.