With the third annual Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition in the books -- it was Sunday at the Uptown Theater -- Fat City caught up with organizer Ryan Maybee for a recap and to snag some recipes for top-flight cocktails.
What did you think about this year's competition?
We had about the same turnout this year as we've had in the past two years, but the biggest difference was the mood of the audience. I think everyone was better connected with the competing bartenders and there was a fantastic, lively energy in the room. Everyone cheered loudly, brought banners and signs for their favorites and really seemed to have a good time. The judges were great, the contestants really entertained up on stage, and that says a lot.
There's a lot of pressure when you're on stage in front of a large crowd and about to get grilled by some of the most reputable experts in our industry. And the finalists handled it all with incredible ease. We also have a strong group of volunteers behind the scenes who really help make things go smoothly. And I can't say enough about having Hendrick's Gin as our presenting sponsor. They were really more than just a sponsor; they were a partner in the event, and their Brand Ambassador, Jim Ryan, really helped make the overall experience a better one. It looks like we'll be partnering with them even more in the future.
What set the winners apart from the other finalists?
They made very well-balanced, unique cocktails. They also were flawless in their execution of the classic drinks that were asked of them. The voting was all very close, as everyone did a tremendous job. As for Arturo [Vera-Felicie], it was his night. His drink was beautiful, his execution perfect, and he was very efficient in everything that he did. In his case, it came down to his presentation that put him on top.
What is the future of cocktail culture in Kansas City?
I've seen a lot of progress over the past several years, and specifically over the past twelve months. So many bartenders are taking their craft more seriously, and a lot more consumers now have higher expectations from their bartenders. As long as that keeps up, we'll keep making progress.
We snagged copies of the winning drink recipes (we'll feature winner Arturo A. Vera-Felicie's drink on Friday) and fully encourage you to try these at home -- even without the supervision of professionals. Although you may want to have an emergency beer on hand, just in case something goes wrong.
Fan Favorite: Anthony "Tony" Beyer, Benton's Steak & Chop House -- "Art of War"
1/2 oz Chinese five spiced infused Yamazaki Suntory 12
1/2 oz Ponzu Citrus marinade
1/2 oz Asian Honey and Taro root syrup
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
Shaken and topped with Sparkling sake in a cocktail or martini glass.
3rd Place: Chris Conaster, Justus Drugstore -- "Vintner's Daydream"
2 oz Grape Blossom infused Cognac
½ oz local honey syrup
3 dashes Chai bitters
Combine all ingredients in mixing glass with ice and stir till well chilled. Strain into chilled old fashioned glass over ice ball made of Pinot Noir, Italian White Wine, Grape Ver Jus and Stevia Tea. Garnish with wild grapes and orange twist
2nd Place: Beau Williams, Manifesto -- "La Prohibida"
2 oz Del Maguey San Luis Del Rio
½ oz fig syrup
Barpspoon Amber Agave Nectar
1 oz fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in mixing glass and shake vigorously with ice for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled coupe and garnish with fig and lime wheel.
[Photos courtesy of Brandon Cummins]