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Ask the bartender: Meet Amy Kempster, Colorado Cocktail contestant

Sean Kenyon knows how to pour out both drinks and advice. A third-generation bar man with almost 25 years behind the bar, he is a student of cocktail history, a United States Bartenders Guild-certified Spirits Professional and a BAR Ready graduate of the prestigious Beverage Alcohol Resource Program. You can find him behind the bar at Squeaky Bean -- and here every week, where he'll answer your questions. But right now, he wants to introduce you to our eighth Colorado Cocktail Contest contestant.

The Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail, has begun. Over the next few weeks, we will profile each of the bartenders and all of the Colorado distillers involved in the process -- and not only can you read about them here, but you can sample the contestants for yourself at any of the participating bars and restaurants, then vote for your favorites. We'll decide the ten finalists by June 15, and they'll pour out their hearts -- and drinks -- in a head-to-head competition on June 27 at the culmination of the Colorado Cocktail Project at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

In this interview, Amy Kempster of Jonesy's EatBar talks about dancing, loving people and taking the bitter with the sweet:

Amy Kempstery Jonesy's EatBar

When and how did you start bartending?

I started bartending in 2007. I worked in the service industry several years before that and had left to pursue a career in law. After a few years sitting at a desk, I decided that I was a people person. I love experimenting with spirits and meeting new people.

What sparked your interest in mixology?

My friend Parker Ramey sparked my interest in mixology. I was completely unaware of what the spirits world had to offer. He made me the best Manhattan I've ever had in my life and I've been hooked ever since.

Tell us about your bar.

Jonesy's is a gastropub. We describe our menu as "Comfort Food With a Passport." Our food is simple with a twist. I've created the same thing for our cocktails, which are classics with a twist. We also specialize in Colorado craft beer and local wines. We also all work as a team; every single person in our restaurant is their customer's server, bartender, friend, etc. We're all about Colorado and comfort.

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Wyoming, my father is from England and I have dual citizenship. I moved to Colorado in 2004, have a college degree in dance, am finishing a second degree in restaurant management, and live with my fiance and two dogs and two cats. I'm a dancer. I dance everyday around all of my hobbies and passions. I really am a dancer and have won a few world championships in line dance and ballroom. People say when they see me dance, they get lost in a vision. That's exactly how I want people to see me behind the bar, always dancing.

What do you love about bartending? People. I love people. I have met so many wonderful people from around the world and I love to make them happy! My recipes make them happy, and it is my goal to continue coming up with wonderful creations to make them even happier.

What is your least favorite thing about bartending?

Vodka/sodas. I think this is one of the most popular, boring, lack-of-everything drink. When people order it, I want to make them a Vesper, or a Vodka Collins. If you're drinking booze, forget about the calories and honestly enjoy your drink.

Favorite cocktail. Negroni. The sweetness, with the bitterness, with the earthiness of this drink make me happier then you can imagine. I love everything about this cocktail.

Favorite spirit. Campari. Something about this bitterly sweet spirit inspires me.

Describe your cocktail and why it should be THE Colorado Cocktail. Colorado juniper berries give this cocktail its true Colorado heart. Once the heart combines with the tart and sweet offerings that Colorado has to offer, all are reminded of just how beautiful and talented this state is. Jackalope Gin is the ultimate heart of this cocktail; Campari, the bitter; Leopold's Michigan Tart Cherry Liqueur, the sweet; Dolin Blanc rounds all of the flavors together; and the lemon twist, makes it come alive.

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The Green Heart 2 oz. Jackalope Gin 5 oz. Dolin Blanc 5 oz. Leopold's Michigan Tart Cherry 2.5 oz. Campari Garnish: Luxardo/maraschino cherry

Stir all ingredients; strain into chilled cocktail/martini glass; garnish with maraschino cherry.

Have a question about the Colorado Cocktail Contest? E-mail bartender@westword.com.

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