Last night Domaine de Canton and brand ambassador Bryan Dayton of Frasca hosted the semifinalist round of the Domaine de Canton bartender competition at TAG. Beyond bragging rights, the winner of the competition won a trip to St. Maartin to compete not only for top honors, but $10,000 in prize money. No, that's not a typo. Ten thousand dollars in prize money -- and a killer suntan.
The eight competitors included many of Colorado's best: Jared Boller (TAG, Root Down), James Lee (Bitter Bar), Al Henkin (Frasca), Anika Zappe (Root Down), Adam Hodak (Osteria Marco), Mike Henderson (TAG), Amanda Olig (Vesta) and Sean Kenyon (Steuben's).
While the competition was fierce, Kenyon took the top spot.
And he just recently added another line to his resume: He's now one of only 200 bartenders worldwide to be certified as "B.A.R. Ready," after attending the five-day B.A.R. program in New York City that's "the Spirits and Mixology version of the Master Sommelier program," Kenyon says. "The program was created by five of the top guys in the industry: Dale DeGroff, Steve Olson, F. Paul Pacult, Doug Frost, Andy Seymour and David Wondrich. I was lucky enough to be one of forty people selected internationally to attend B.A.R. this year. I was constantly amazed looking around the room at the high level of talent on the student side! Award-winning and well-renowned mixologists from all over the world!"
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After four twelve-hour days, they took a seven-hour test. "Over the week," Kenyon explains, "we tasted over 160 spirits from all categories. We learned about their history, application and production. We learned about the history of mixology and the birth and progression of the cocktail. We learned about bar tools, mixology, methodology, menu building and cost management. It was difficult to be in NYC surrounded by all of those great cocktail bars and stay focused. By Thursday night, my head was spinning! So much information to sort out before test day!"
The test included a practical exam, during which they had to make six drinks in eleven minutes. Five (a Manhattan, a champagne cocktail, a daiquiri, a dry martini and a Sidecar) were from the "26 drinks every bartender should know" section of the manual that they'd had to study before class, Kenyon says, and the sixth was an original drink that we were asked to create with only four ingredients. "My drink was a called 'A Rye (Wry) Smile,' with Old Overholt Rye, Cherry Heering, Grade B maple syrup and orange bitters."
He didn't learn how he'd done on the test until last week, Kenyon says, "when I found out that I passed at the highest level: B.A.R. Ready. Andy Seymour called me to give me my test results and I literally screamed in his ear when he told me...currently, there are less than 200 people worldwide who are certified B.A.R. Ready."
After all that, it sounds like Kenyon could use a trip to St. Maartin.