Two months ago, Colt & Gray bartender Noah Heaney barely edged out another Colt & Gray barman, Kevin Burke, in a sudden-death mix-off when the two tied for first at the Colorado chapter of the US Bartender's Guild Don Q rum competition.
The prize: a trip to New York to compete in the Manhattan Cocktail Classic.
Last week, Heaney won round two, too, nabbing a top-five spot in the national competition against bartenders from all over the country with a play on rum-spiked apple cider, garnished with a clove-studded flower made from apple slices. Besides the appearance, smell and taste of his cocktail, Heaney was also judged on his professionalism and technical skills behind the bar.
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With his win, Heaney joined the Bitter Bar's Mark Stoddard and Steuben's Sean Kenyon to become the third Colorado bartender in two months to win a high-profile national or international cocktail contest, and that's turning the heads of mixologists around the country.
Kenyon, who is also the secretary of the Colorado chapter of the USBG, says, "From a national standpoint, there's a lot of talk about how Colorado bartenders are killing it. All of a sudden, we have winners in every contest. When you're talking about cocktails, you're usually talking about New York, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago... and then out of nowhere comes Denver and the Front Range. Fucking exciting."
Later this summer, Heaney and the other winners, who hail from Chicago, New York, Northern California and Las Vegas, will form the USBG US Drink Team at the international finals of the competition in Puerto Rico, where they'll compete for a $2,000 cash-prize, a $5,000 non-profit donation and the opportunity to have their cocktail grace the list of LA's Esquire House this fall.