Husk Savannah’s Kevin King was announced as a finalist for the 2019 Bartender of the Year Competition held by Heaven Hill Brands and liquor.com.
King won first place in the semifinal competition with his Grandfather’s Garden cocktail. He received $1,000 and a trip to the finals at Half Mile Farm in Highlands, North Carolina in June, according to a press release.
Grandfather’s Garden was inspired by its namesake, where he first tasted the natural combination of bitter and sweet flavors.
“Growing up I would wander through his garden and my favorite thing to try was rhubarb because of its lovely green and acidic qualities,” King said in the press release. “The combination of Lunazul Blanco’s fresh, citrus, ripe flavor with the bitter, jam notes of Dubonnet Rouge give the cocktail base depth and balance.
“My Grandfather was a bitter man at times, but also the sweetest of souls and he continues to grow some of the best produce I've ever tasted. I still get to visit his garden and we walk through and talk about different flavors, some bitter, some sweet, but always the best and balanced.”
Bartenders competed in three rounds, the first two featuring the classic cocktail and inspired cocktail from their preliminary submission. For the final round, bartenders created a custom drink for a fictional bar menu using a minimum of 1.5 ounces of at least one Heaven Hill brand not previously featured in one of their cocktails including Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur, Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon, PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, and Rittenhouse Rye Whisky, as well as Dubonnet Rouge Aperitif, Sacred Bond Brandy, or Lunazul Tequila.
Contestants and judges were then invited to a family dinner at Husk Nashville and professional development with Simon Ford, Co-Founder of 86 Co. and Ford’s Gin, before the winner was announced.
National Brand Educator for Heaven Hill Brands Lynn House, Owner/Bartender of Pouring Ribbons Joaquín Simó, and Ford judged the semifinalists’ cocktails and chose one finalist based on highest scores. Contestant skills and cocktails were scored on flavor, appearance, presentation, technical skills, use of sponsor brands, and adherence to judges’ guidelines.
More than 1,100 original cocktail recipes were submitted online nationwide beginning in September of 2018. Preliminary entries required two original cocktail recipes, one rendition of a classic recipe, and one relating to an inspiration, along with a short description of how the cocktail represents a deep inspiration to their life.
The top contestant from each region will go on to vie for the title of Bartender of the Year and $15,000 at Half Mile Farm in Highlands, North Carolina from June 17-20, 2019. Finalists will be challenged on their full range of skills as hospitality professionals. Judges will be looking for the ultimate bartender who displays the total breadth and aptitude all bartenders aspire to embody.
Grounded in the original Bartender of the Year Competition hosted by Domaine de Canton starting in 2009, Heaven Hill Brands resurrected the competition due to strong demand from bartenders worldwide.
Harrison Ginsberg of The Dead Rabbit in New York City was the 2018 Bartender of the Year and will return as a guest judge for the finals. Ginsberg joined an impressive rank of past champions, including Nathan O’Neill from the Nomad Bar in New York City who was named Bartender of the Year in 2017, and Abigail Gullo of Compere Lapin in New Orleans who won the inaugural competition in 2016.
Grandfather’s Garden, crafted by Kevin King
Lunazul Tequila Blanco (1.5 ounce(s))
Dubonnet Rouge Grand Aperitif (.5 ounce(s))
Purple Clover Cordial (.5 ounce(s))
Lemon (.5 ounce(s))
Zucca Amaro (.25 ounce(s))
Egg White (.75 ounce(s))
Saline (6 drops n/a)
Place all ingredients in tin. Dry shake or froth. Hard shake and strain into coupe. Garnish with purple clover and maldon salt.