My evening with Woodford

Six drinks .. Two winners .. One night celebrating bourbon the only way bartenders and mixologists know how– a competition.

September 30 Woodford Reserve held a Mixology competition in conjunction with the Omaha/Lincoln chapter of the US Bartending Guild at 1316 Jones. The rules were simple:

  • $10 to enter
  • Woodford must be the base
  • Bring your own bar tools and judging glassware
  • No more than SIX ingredients although syrups, infusions and the like count as one
  • Recipes must be expressed in fluid ounces, and divided in respectively whole numbers, with dashes and drops being the smallest quantities
  • Cocktail content must be between three ounces and eleven
  • No fire or flames in prep
  • Cocktail must be named (no copyrighted or trademarked material outside of Woodford’s name)

As the event was open to the public, each cocktail was “judged” twice. Once by the small crowd that turned out and officially by the USBG judges. The space was open and yet inviting. Heavy hors d’oeuvre were provided including fruits and cheeses.

A  cash bar was available but the turnout was on the smaller side, so enough samples were available to get your fill without spending extra $$. There was only one real rule for the general public– no samples until the judges visited a table.

The Players

Dillon of Venue Restaurant & Lounge Lincoln
Averna Amaro, Aperol, dark Morello cherry & a vanilla cardamom foam

Dillon described his offering as a mix of tradition and non, Aperol traditionally being a pre dinner drink while Amaro is enjoyed after. The real winner in this drink was the foam, the vanilla played off the cardamom just right. Unfortunately it also stole the show, leaving some to be desired outside the soaked cherries.

Barrie of Venue Restaurant & Lounge Lincoln
Amaro Nonino, chokecherry jam, Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Teapot Bitters

The Venue’s second offering of the night, this was undisputably the most traditional of the night. A great Manhattan by any means, but not quite what you expect from a mixology competition.

Luke of Berry & Rye Omaha
fig, sour caramel fig, peach juice, sherry

A crowd favorite Luke’s offering reminded me of something I’d just started to miss– the summer. The peach and fig played nicely off each other with the sherry giving this dink a mellow finish.

Graham of Sandy’s Lincoln
orange liqueur, dry vermouth, orange bitters, homemade cinnamon syrup

A surprising offering from a college town bar staple Graham’s drink was thoughtful and deliberate. I wanted to enjoy it after the amazing back story he gave while preparing samples, but the orange did me in. The combo of both bitters and liqueur was just too much for me to handle.

Justin of House of Loom Omaha
sweet potato brown sugar puree, baked marshmallow whipped cream, hot water, benedictine, ginger mist, grated cinnamon

The most PSL seasoney drink of the night Justin’s offering was reminiscent of a grown-up Hot Toddy you want to drink on purpose. The whipped cream was stellar and though I stay away from sweet potatoes generally the puree added the right touch to the only warm/hot drink of the night.

Devon of Wicked Rabbit Omaha
Cointreau, rhubarb bitters, brut champagne, fig preserves, caramel apple

My favorite of the night, a spin on a French 75. Though the caramel apple was an afterthought the drink was surprisingly well composed to be an hour before the competition decision. My love of champagne may be speaking for me but I’d drink this at Wicked Rabbit any day (once it opens).

There can only be (one) Two?

After a brief period where the crowd descended on each table like a pack of wolves, drinking both samples and full-sized preparations the judges made their decision. While acknowledging every entry was high quality and a lot of the decision came down to judges taste they had to pick someone. The real judging criteria:

  • Appearance
  • Aroma
  • Imagination
  • Taste
  • Overall Impression (in case of a tie)
  • Technical Criteria (based on USBG technical standards)

In first place was Luke’s Figuratively Peaching with Justin’s Bourbon My Sweetie Pie bringing in second. Both drinks I enjoyed in different ways (Justin’s was my second choice) and deserving of recognition.

My first USBG Omaha/Lincoln event didn’t disappoint and quality connections were made. Truly looking forward to more from the group.

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