Bitter Bar bartender Burton Daniel advances to national Barenjager cocktail competition

Colorado's bartenders keep upping our state's cocktail credibility, competing in national contests and besting some of the country's most formidable spirits professionals to bring big prizes home to the Rocky Mountains.

The latest accolade? Burton Daniel, a bartender at Boulder's Bitter Bar, out-crafted 250 of his peers nationwide to land a place as one of six finalists in the national Barenjager competition.

Daniel's drink, called Smokey the Bear, is a blend of Barenjager (a German honey liqueur), Leopold Bros. Maryland Style Rye Whiskey and lemon, topped off with a little Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen, a German beer. Hmm, beer and Leopold Bros. -- looks to us like a distinctly Colorado cocktail, too.

Daniel didn't mix against a roomful of Colorado bartenders to land his place in the finals, though. Instead, he sent his recipe to be judged by a panel that included bartending heavy hitters Dushan Zaric, Dale DeGroff and David Wondrich, who put him in the top ranks and rewarded him with a trip to New York City. That's where he'll go head to head with bartenders from New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., on September 19.

What's most remarkable is that Daniel, the only bartender from a town west of the Mississippi River, has competed in just one other cocktail competition ever: the GQ Bombay Sapphire showdown last month.

"I didn't place, but I definitely learned a few lessons," he says. Clearly.

If he wins, he won't just bring pride back to the Rocky Mountains; he'll also head with a friend to Oktoberfest in Munich with $1,000 in his pocket. Cheers.

Here's Daniel's full recipe for Smokey the Bear:

1 1/2 ounce Barenjager 1 ounce Leopold Bros. Maryland Style Rye Whiskey 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice 1/2 ounce Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen

Shake all ingredients except Marzen, double strain into a tall, slender glass without ice, then top with rauchbier, and give a quick stir to reintroduce all the elements.

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