Chow Town

Local bartenders shake up competitions

Nothing gets local bartenders going like a little friendly competition, and there’s been plenty of it lately. Jenn Tosatto of The Rieger Hotel Grill Exchange just returned from St. Louis, where she placed second in the Four Roses Bourbon contest with her In Bourban Veritas cocktail.

Ryan Miller slid into the No. 4 spot with an Old Fashioned riff called The New 20. Miller has in the past worked at The Drop and The Boot and will be behind the bar at Voltaire (

) when it opens at 1617 Genessee on May 16.

Mark Church of Grunauer, Travis Stewart of Port Fonda, and bartenders from Chicago and St. Louis were also among the Four Roses finalists and winners.

Five other KC pros were spotlighted in March at Tequila Don Julio’s Tequila Bartender Challenge, which I helped judge. Tony Beyer of The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center, Brock Schulte of The Drum Room Lounge at The Hotel President, Caitlin Corcoran of Port Fonda and Jonathan Bush of The Bristol Seafood Grill each took their turn, incorporating local ingredients like sunflower oil, seeds and jelly into original drink recipes.

But it was Beau Williams, bar manager of Manifesto, who came out on top with his La Palabra, shaken up from blanco tequila, lime juice, Green Chartreuse and house-made strawberry cordial. Williams will represent Kansas City in Don Julio’s U.S. competition later this year.

On May 16, Paige Unger of Extra Virgin and Michael Smith will step into the national spotlight when she competes in the Speed Rack finals in New York. Speed Rack (

) was created in 2011 by and for female bartenders with the dual purpose of showcasing women in the spirits industry and raising money for breast cancer education and research.

Speed Rack this year held events in 10 cities with more than 200 entrants. Unger earned her spot by topping the St. Louis preliminary in January. Jenn Tosatto placed second. To win it all, Unger must make a round of cocktails randomly picked from a list of 50 standard recipes. She’ll be judged on accuracy, taste, presentation and, of course, speed.

And that’s not all the city’s bartenders are up to. Events sponsored by brands such as Beefeater24, Ardbeg and Auchesntoshan are in the months to come, as well as Kansas City’s own Paris of the Plains Bartending Competition (

) in August. It has in past years included a tasting room showcasing finalists’ entries -- and I, for one, am looking forward to sampling bartenders’ competitive creativity.

In Bourbon Veritas

Jenn Tosatto, bar manager at The Rieger Hotel Grill Exchange, earned second place in the Four Roses Bourbon cocktail competition in St. Louis on May 5 with this cocktail. To watch her prepare it for a panel of judges, go to

Makes 1 serving

2 ounces Four Roses Yellow Label bourbon

1/2 ounce cream sherry

1/2 ounce dry curaçao

2 dashes Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Own Decanter Bitters

orange twist (for garnish)

Add all ingredients to a cocktail glass, fill partway with ice, stir until chilled and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.