The Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival all began with a single event back in 2007: the bartending competition.
By ANNE BROCKHOFF
It showcased local bartenders’ professionalism and talent and laid the foundation for what is now a week’s worth of cocktail-focused education, exploration and celebration.
Still, the contest remains at Popfest’s core, and bartenders will again return the Uptown Theater on Aug. 25 to vie for the title.
It’s no easy task. Finalists must prepare their original cocktails onstage for a panel of judges, as well as make a big enough batch for the public tasting room. Judges will compare the two versions, pick a classic drink at random for each contestant to make and quiz them industry knowledge.
While that’s a lot of pressure, this year’s slate is a familiar one.
Jenn Tosatto, bar manager of The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, has been in the top tier of in every contest since 2008, when she placed third. Last year, Tosatto earned second place at Popfest and was a finalist in the Diageo World Class U.S. competition in New York.
Beau Williams of Hawthorne & Julep Cocktail Club, a bartending catering and consulting company, placed third in 2007, was a finalist a year later and placed second in 2009. Williams is also bar manager of Manifesto.
Tony Beyer of Milano competed in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 events and was voted Fan Favorite all three years. Paige Unger of Extra Virgin made the finals in 2010, 2011 and 2010; she also competed in the Speed Rack national finals in New York earlier this year.
But even the Popfest Bartending Competition newbies are an experienced lot. Caitlin Corcoran of Port Fonda represented Parisi Artisan Coffee in the 2012 U.S. Barista Championship. Ryan Miller of Voltaire placed in a regional Four Roses Bourbon contest earlier this year and is organizing a Small’s American Dry Gin cocktail competition on Aug. 18.
Scott Tipton worked at R Bar and opened Gram & Dun as its bar manager before moving to The Kill Devil Club; he also earned a coveted spot as a cocktail apprentice at the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail.
Want to see them in action? Tickets are available online at Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival and also include food from local restaurants, live music and burlesque.
Anne Brockhoff is an award-winning spirits writer who writes a monthly column for The Star’s Food section, as well as food features. She blogs at food_drink_ life.wordpress.com .