Westword bar columnist Sean Kenyon just landed in New York City about an hour ago for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, and once he turned his cell phone on, it started buzzing like a palpitating heart -- and Kenyon's heart just about dropped to the floor when he began reading his text messages.
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"When I turned my phone on, I had about 25 congratulatory texts, except that I had no idea what they were congratulating me for," says a bemused Kenyon, who also pours cocktails at the Squeaky Bean. But it didn't take long for Kenyon to learn the news: Both he and Williams & Graham, the Highland speakeasy that he opened in 2011 with partner Todd Colehour, were nominated for best American Bartender of the Year and Best American Bar of the Year, respectively, by Tales of the Cocktail, which hosts the annual Spirited Awards to honor the year's best bars, bartenders, writers and more in eighteen categories.
"My friend sent me a link to the nominations, and I was fucking floored," Kenyon admits. "To be a finalist in even one Tales of the Cocktail category would have been amazing, but two? Holy muthaliving shit!" Spoken like a true motherfucker.
"It's really special," continues Kenyon, "because it's voted on by our peers in the bar and spirits industry, and while I've said this before, I'll say it again: all the credit goes to our amazing team. We're so blessed to have such a passionate and committed staff."
Hundreds of bars and bartenders were nominated -- and evaluated -- for the prestigious awards, and only ten finalists in each award category were chosen, according to Paul G. Tuennerman, co-founder of Tales of the Cocktail, noting that the top four finalists in each category will be announced Friday, June 7 in New Orleans and the overall winners will be revealed at the Spirited Awards at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans on Saturday, July 20 as part of the Tales of the Cocktail eleventh anniversary celebration.
Each award recipient will receive an exclusive Riedel crystal trophy -- and lots of exposure, not that Williams & Graham or Kenyon require more accolades: Earlier this year, in February, Nightclub & Bar Media Group named the swanky speakeasy Cocktail Bar of the Year, and in March, Williams & Graham was a James Beard Foundation semi-finalist in the Outstanding Bar Program category; in 2102, Food & Wine magazine named Williams & Graham one of the Top 10 Best New Bars in the U.S.
As far as Kenyon's personal nomination, he's still reeling: "I'm so honored to be in the company of incredibly talented finalists. I'm absolutely overwhelmed...that's about all I can say."
If, by chance you're going to be in New Orleans on June 7, you can purchase tickets to the Spirited Awards finalists ceremony for $72.50 each at TalesoftheCocktail.com
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Here's hoping for a double Denver celebration, and another in Boulder, since Oak at Fourteenth is also a nominee in the Best Restaurant Bar category.