| Booze |

Corner Office bartender Nick Snyder wins local honors at Punch Kings, with "Mama's Medicine"

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In his first-ever bartending competition, Nick Snyder of the Corner Office punched out a win at Cochon 555's annual Punch Kings competition on June 28 at the Curtis Hotel. Originally a carnival of all things pork, Cochon 555 has expanded to include bartenders in the food-and-drink competition. See also: The Cochon 555 Punch King Competition, 2013

Keep reading to find out how he won, and to see photos from the event...

Snyder's punch, called Mama's Medicine, contained Breckenridge bourbon, coconut water, basil-raw sugar syrup, lime juice, mint, Leopold's Three Pins herbal liqueur and two different kinds of bitters: Peychaud's and Fee Brother's Peach Bitters. That combo not only won him the trophy, but Snyder also took home a snowboard and a bottle of Breckenridge Single-Barrel bourbon.

Snyder has worked behind the bar at the Corner Office for the past nine months. Prior to that, he tended bar at Second Home Kitchen and Bar for four years.

"This was my first competition," Snyder said. "It was awesome. I got to see how people from other cities do the real deal. Their drinks were a lot more complicated and well-thought-out than mine was. So it was good to see that. It was a lot of fun."

Snyder got his start at Second Home Kitchen and Bar as a barback. After moving into bar tending, he began to create drinks. Most of the time, he starts with the name, then builds the drink based on the name he's chosen. "The punch I made was called 'Mama's Medicine,'" Snyder said. "The reason why I did that was because it's got whiskey in it and, you know, it makes you feel better. It's also herbal. It's got coconut water to hydrate you."

The Punch Kings punch competition was a component of an event called Cochon 555, which started five years ago. Cochon 555 is a national tour, hitting 15 to 20 cities per year, with the aim of raising awareness for Heritage breed pigs and the family farms on which they're raised. Cochon 555 attempts to raise awareness of often obscure--and delicious--hog breeds in a fun, engaging, experiential public event.

Cochon 555 takes it's name from the french phrase 'amuse bouche de cochon' which, translated literally, means "fun pig mouth." It refers to small, bite-size nibbles of pork you might pop in your mouth while waiting for an entree to arrive.

Two years ago, Cochon 555 decided to add bartenders to this competition of chefs with a passion for pig. They contacted Kevin Litch Polich, one of the partners involved with Breckenridge Distillery. Polich's idea: get bartenders in the competition, and get them using Breckenridge's bourbon.

"We thought it was a great opportunity for us to make it so much better by introducing the booze side," Polich said. "So what we wanted to do was come up with a punch. We wanted to find the best bartenders in each respective city everywhere from New York to Boston, down to Miami. We've got L.A., Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Aspen... We wanted to take the best bartenders and compete them, making a punch out of Breckenridge bourbon."

For the past two years, Cochon 555 has featured local and national bartenders. Punch Kings is the last stop on the competition circuit, and it takes place right here in Denver. "It just felt right to do it in Denver," Polich said, "and we'll continue doing this. The chefs, they're all taking pig and they're making their food, which is phenomenal. But we wanted to get the national bartenders here to compete against each other."

Keep reading to see more pig-and-punch photos...

But Polich added another twist: he decided to have the bartenders judge each other. "We thought we'd get ten local bartenders and make them judges," he explained, "but also have them make a punch. So, the local bartenders tasted the national bartenders punch, and picked their favorite, and then the national bartenders judged the local bartenders. It was a really interactive thing."

"I didn't expect them to be as good as they were,"Polich said, looking back on the more than twenty punches ladled out for the public. "I thought the locals were almost harder to judge than the national ones. I mean, the punches were all great, but I didn't expect the local ones to be that good. There were amazing punches."

Cochon 555 will visit Denver again next year. "We'll try and keep the same format," Polich said. "We'll probably pick up a few more cities here and there, but it's kind of tried and true, we kind of like this format. Hopefully we'll do it here again at The Curtis Hotel."

Maria Polise, from Ela in Philadelphia won the competition on the national level. Other national competitors included James Menize (Crown Restaurant, New York City), Joshua Holliday (Khuong River House, Miami), Paul Sanguinette (Patina Group, Los Angeles), Michael Jack Pazdon (Goose & Gander, Napa, CA), Erin Goodman (Roofer's Union, Washington, D.C.), Sean Woods (Ribelle, Boston), Jennifer Fink (Fat Rice, Chicago), Andrew Meltzer (15 Romalo, San Francisco).

Justin Lloyd of Star Bar, 2137 Larimer Street, Denver, also participated on the national level with a punch called 'Howdy Partner.' Lloyd's punch started with Breckenridge bourbon, and contained black tea, lemon juice, and oleo saccharum. Each serving of his punch was topped with a foam made from Modus Hoperandi, a beer produced by Oskar Blues in Lyons, CO.

Other local punch-makers included Haylee Ortiz of Session Kitchen, and Matt Howerton of Cholon Modern Asian Bistro.

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