"We bartended together, as one, and it was amazing," says Chad Michael George, who shared the win at Deuces!, a synchronized bartending competition held Tuesday at Star Bar, with Nick Touch. Paired bartenders were tasked with making the same drink -- simultaneously. Four teams fought it out behind the bar, performing hilarious routines set to music, in themed costumes. Each pair was judged on song choice, synchronicity, overall creativity, outfits, and, of course, the taste of their cocktail. See also: Justin Lloyd creates a local gathering place at Star Bar "We practiced really hard," George says, "and then we got up there, and it all went out the window under the pressure -- and the alcohol."
George and Touch, both bartenders at Williams & Graham, hopped behind the bar dressed only in tight swimsuits, goggles and blue rubber swim caps. "As soon as I heard of 'synchronized bartending,' I thought of synchronized swimming. I said, 'Nick, we gotta do this, it's too easy,'" George recalls.
George and Touch practiced their routine only hours before the competition. While practicing, they decided to base their cocktail on sherry. "We had a few different songs planned out that all had 'sherry' in the name," George recalls. "And 'Oh, Sherry' by Steve Perry just worked out. We wanted to pour the sherry right when he was singing the words, 'Oh, Sherry.' And so we went with it."
How did they do? Well enough to make it into a three-way, tie-breaking bonus round. "We didn't do our best in the first round," George admits, "but we did well enough to make it to the bonus round. We pulled it together."
Deuces! is an event created by No Scruples, an organization of bartenders from Los Angeles, Chicago and Austin. The first synchronized mixology competition was held in Chicago last month; Denver was the second location, and more events are planned.
Four pairs of bartenders competed: George and Touch, Haylee Ortiz and Les Baker from Sessions Kitchen, Melissa Durant and Nate Maston from Acorn, and Brian Smith and A. Minetta Gould from Squeaky Bean.
The three-way tie for first place drew three of the four pairs back behind the bar to battle it out for first place: George and Touch, Ortiz and Baker, and Smith and Gould. The final winner was determined in a dual-cocktail shaking round in which one bartender had to make a drink while standing directly behind his partner.
"We had so much fun," Touch says. "We came together and we made it all about fun from the get-go. It's all about fun."
The winners of Denver's first Deuces! contest took home a trophy, bottles of liquor from event sponsors...and bragging rights.
"That's plenty for me, man," Touch says. "Possibly a trip to the national finals, too. It's one of the most fun events that happens throughout the year, for sure."
Donations and proceeds from all cocktails sold during the competition will benefit two charities. "For this particular event we broke it up between two awesome causes," explains Kiowa Bryan, one of the organizers of Deuces!, head bartender at Eveleigh in Los Angeles, and brand supporter for Aviation American Gin, one of the event's sponsors. "Heroes Like Us is a local Denver group of culinary minds that feed hungry kids in the area and also educates kids on healthy eating."
The second beneficiary of Deuces! is a Denver bartender who is struggling with medical bills. "We're trying to help," Bryan says. "We're splitting it 50-50."
Deuces! will return to Denver within a year. "We only put together Chicago and Denver for the immediate future," Bryan explains. "We're gonna regroup and try to put together Los Angeles and New York, probably Austin, and we'll see where else it happens. Those are the only three we're set on right now. There's a lot of maybes, but we haven't quite figured it out yet." Keep reading for final scores, and more photos of the event... Three judges rated each performance on a scale of 1 to 10. Here are the scores for each performance, based on song choice, synchronicity, overall creativity, outfits and cocktail flavor:
Chad Michael George and Nick Touch: 8, 7, 8. Les Baker and Haylee Ortiz: 7, 7, 8. Melissa Durant and Nate Maston: 6, 6, 7. Brian Smith and A. Minetta Gould: 8, 7, 8.
Winners of the three-way tie for first place: Chad Michael George and Nick Touch.
Deuces! was sponsored by Auchentoshan Scotch whisky, Clement Rhum agricole, Aviation American gin, Lustau sherry and Angel's Envy bourbon.