- Griffin Swartzell
- The Springs' cocktail scene has a stunning amount of talent and creative diversity.
On March 27, eight of the best bartenders in the area came together to throw down with cocktails at Brooklyn's on Boulder Street (110 E. Boulder St.), all made from Lee Spirits Gins. Already, that's a recipe for success. But host Erika Mullett secured a panel of local and international talent acting as judges, raising the stakes.
In addition to lauded local chef/restaurateur Brother Luck and Brooklyn's head bartender Nate Windham, the competitors were judged by spirits writer and 86 Company co-founder Simon Ford, as well as 86 Company co-founder and founder of Employees Only, routinely rated as one of the best bars on Earth, Jason Kosmas. They were joined by local realtor Nate Banet, who won a raffle for the fifth judging seat.
Ford and Kosmas heaped praise upon the Springs' cocktail artisans, with Kosmas putting the talent present on par with anything he'd had in Austin, Texas, where he himself helped launch the craft cocktail scene. Ford's adulation was similar, noting that in other competitions, he's seen competitors turn in many somewhat similar cocktails. The talent on display that night had no such problem: there were no two drinks alike. So to paraphrase competitor Stephen Winchell, while some bartenders were beaten that night, there were no losers.
The judges' favorite was Emillio Ortiz and bar-back Ashlee Choi from 503w (503 W. Colorado Ave.). Ortiz's drink, Novara en fuego, was a take on the classic Italian drink, using Lee Spirits' Ginfuego pepper gin, Campari, Framboise reduction, fresh yuzu (a citrus fruit), and orange bitters. The judges complimented the drink's ambitiousness and complexity, as well as how well Ortiz presented the Campari.
Second went to Jason Sweeney and bar-back Courtney Caldwell, representing The Principal's Office (1604 S. Cascade Ave.) with Mr. Banana Grabber. Third went to Stephen Winchell and bar-back Noel Carlson, representing The Warehouse (25 W. Cimarron St.) with "Nate needs a pony."
Based on pre-mixed samples of each cocktail, the audience got to vote for their favorite as well. They picked Dylan Currier of Cowboy Star (5198 N. Nevada Ave. #150), assisted by bar-back Alejandro Sanchez of Axe & the Oak Whiskey House (1604 S. Cascade Ave.), and his cocktail, the Colorado Columbine. Currier used a blueberry-white tea infused gin, a thyme-blueberry simple syrup, lemon juice, and angostura bitters to craft something simple and clean.
Read below for photos of the event and details on every drink and competitor. (Please excuse the blur from the low lighting)