Twelve local bartenders -- Randy Layman (ACE), Ryan Layman (Steuben's), Ken Kodys (Breckenridge-Wynkoop), Alex Kady (Epicurean Catering and Entertainment), Derrick Mund (Breckenridge-Wynkoop), Anika Zappe (Coohills), Les Baker (Tom's Urban Diner), Mark Baldini (Cruise Room), Chad Gray (Lou's Food Bar), Holland Rock-Garden (Green Russell), Jason Patz (Williams & Graham) and Luke Ramos (formerly of Green Russell) -- went head-to-head last night, shaking and stirring Campari cocktails for an opportunity to win a $500 gift card and a trip to Portland, Oregon's cocktail week.
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The Campari Aperitivo battle, which took place behind the stick at Williams & Graham, resulted in a first place win for Patz, while Zappe and Baker took second and third place, respectively. The cocktails were judged on their technical merits by Sean Kenyon, co-owner and bartender of Williams & Graham, and on taste, appearance, creativity and other factors by three judges, including me, Noah Heaney (Coohills) and Bruce Conklin (old Major), all of whom were sequestered in a curtained off room that prohibited us from knowing the creator of the cocktails -- although we could definitely hear the applause in the bar.
"When I built this place, this is how I envisioned our late nights -- full of industry people and cocktail competitions, where everyone roots for each other," says Kenyon. "Everyone got together and just had fun -- and it was so interactive. That's what it's all about," he adds.
Photos from the showdown are on the following pages, as is the recipe for Patz's winning cocktail, which showcased a mere three ingredients, the combination of which resulted in a beautiful drink that was dually bitter, dry, nutty and herbal. "Jason is brilliant and one of the hardest working guys I've ever seen," says Kenyon. "But all the bartenders did a fantastic job, and the main thing is that everyone supported one another and had a really good time."
And the winning cocktail...
Here's the recipe:
1 ounce Campari 1.5 ounce Lustau Amontillado sherry .5 ounces Cynar
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Stir, strain and serve over a big rock of ice; garnish with an orange peel.