Manhattans and Originals
Howdy all. I must quickly remark on how I gained so much crucial knowledge and respect for a skilled bartender's attention to detail this past Monday. Congratulations to Atticus Basehore of Earnest Bar & Hideaway for clenching the top spot on Nashville's roster to represent our city in Louisville, KY for the next round of competition! 🏆
Two days ago, the final 12 finalists in Woodford Reserve's 2022 Master of the Manhattan Nashville edition got together and competed to advance to the second round. The event was held at the Hutton Hotel in their first-floor event space, behind their beautiful and user-friendly bar.
Judges Amy Van Buren, Tom Morris, and Jon Howard were tasked with cataloguing each contestant's every move, motive, and execution as to what each of their cocktails flavor profiles and stories were. We were all judged on Taste and Balance, Original Creativity,
Intelligent use of Woodford Reserve, Skill, Technique and Presentation, and Visual Appearance.
I came into this competition admittedly nervous but armed with the knowledge that I had spent a lot of time in my kitchen researching and developing what would become my two entries into the competition, Astoria and Second Act. The biggest mistake I could commit would be to mask the intricate and layered flavor notes of my weapons of choice, Woodford's Bourbon and Double Oaked models, respectively. These spirits give us broad strokes of oak, cedar, caramel, vanilla, rye spice, malt, pecan, almond, caramelized sugar, and crisp fruit overtones that are each begging to be explored and enhanced through the medium of a proper balanced cocktail. I am proud of my two submissions and would serve them to any guest of mine with pleasure.
When we arrived at the hotel, valet directed us to the staging room where each of the contestants had their own half table space to prep their cocktail batches for the Woodford Reserve models to pass out to our guests, and to get everything we needed for the competition ready to transfer to the main bar. We were grouped in four sets of three to set up and execute our recipes for the judges (there are three wells behind the main bar at the Hutton: each bartender got their own well to craft their cocktails). Luckily, I was scheduled as third and didn't have to wait until the end of the competition to perform. I had just enough time to collect my nerves and review my notes.
By the time the mic was passed to me and I began executing my cocktails, I thought I was as prepared as I could have been after a long night spent trying to further ingrain in my head each ingredient's flavor profile, history, and how each ingredient married to the next in an effort to push forward maximum flavor and overall impression from the judges. I looked in the crowd at my friends, towards the judges and photographers, and settled into the moment as best I could. When all was said and done, I did not take first or second, but I am confident I placed 3rd overall.
The judges had high marks for a lot of the contestants. Each were sincere in their remarks about what we did well and what we did not do well overall. I took Jon Howard to the side after the competition to ask him what my faults had been. He took out his notes and told me that he scored my two cocktails as highest in the competition for Flavor and Balance (score!), but that
I needed to effectively work and talk more at the same time, chill my cocktails to a lower temperature, and to expand upon the brand a little more. Those small mistakes can be fixed, and with those adjustments, I know a first place title is hiding somewhere in the near future!
Cheers and congratulations to all of the bartenders who showed Brown-Foreman that this city does indeed have excellent beverage programs that employ skilled bartenders who have the ability to walk their guest through an unforgettable sit-down cocktail experience, without having to rely on old parlor tricks and skyline views.
Professional photos are courtesy of Sam Calderon.
He can be found at https://samcalderon.smugmug.com and on IG @rawxposure 📸