Drinking local is easier than ever, thanks to explosive growth in the craft distilling industry. There are now some 350 craft spirits makers nationwide, up from just 69 a decade ago, making everything from vodka and whiskey to gin, rum, absinthe, aquavit and all manner of liqueurs.
By ANNE BROCKHOFF
But are they good? Many are, says Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival co-founder Doug Frost, and he created the Washington Cup Competition to prove it.
The competition is exclusively for American-made spirits and liqueurs, and it attracted nearly 100 entrants in its first year. Forty-five won medals, but not in the usual way.
Spirits competitions usually use judging panels to evaluate straight spirits, while cocktail competitions are often sponsored by individual brands and so focus only on prepared drinks.
The Washington Cup instead incorporates a three-phase judging system. In the first, experts analyze each spirit. In Round 2, bartenders use them in cocktails that are then judged. And the third? It’s up to you.
KCPT Paris of the Plains Gala Celebration ticket holders will blind-taste the top 11 spirits and vote for their favorite cocktails on Aug. 27. (See popfestkc.com/calendar for ticket information.)
The system “reflects our nation’s founding father’s own steadfast belief in a new political system that allowed the people to speak as loudly as the powerful,” says Doug Frost, a master of wine and master sommelier who also founded the Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition.
Peach and cherry eau de vie made by Montelle Winery in Augusta, Mo., won silver awards and so will advance to the final round of judging. Spirits from Kentucky, Wisconsin, Montana and Pennsylvania also will be showcased at the gala.
Good Spirits Distilling of Olathe won bronze awards for its Clear 10 Vodka and Dizzy Three Espresso Vodka, which is flavored with air-roasted espresso from the Roasterie. The Most Wanted Gin and Most Wanted Kansas Bourbon produced by High Plains Distilled Spirits in Atchison also won bronze, as did the St. Louis-based Square One Distillery’s J.J. Neukomm Missouri Malt Whiskey.