Finding RAs of my own was easy. RA Jonetta has regaled more than one cocktail hour with stories about riding the Beaumont mechanical bull in a miniskirt, and she had the inner-thigh bruises to prove it. RA Sally, a bartender at the Brooksider, has taken a turn as well. "I hurt my back on it," she revealed.
The Beaumont's upper bar, which functioned as the stage for the event, was packed with nightlife industry faces. "It's like every bartender I've ever made out with," whispered our third companion, RA Annie. The four of us might as well have been making out with them all ourselves, the way the crowd was forced to smush tightly in front of the bar as the contest got under way.
Four drink mixers had emerged from a preliminary contest at the Dark Horse Tavern to compete for the title of Best Bartender in Kansas City: Lou Stoll of the Schoolhouse in Overland Park, John Huguinin of the Pub House in Liberty, Mark Neidenmeyer of the Dark Horse Tavern, and Jonas Deemer of Johnny Dare's. The four tests awaiting them involved opening beer bottles against a clock, mixing a couple of drinks at high speed, creating a "signature" cocktail, and tossing bottles like a juggler.
Deemer actually got to skip the preliminaries because he came so highly recommended by devotees of Johnny Dare's, all of whom, it seemed, had shown up to see him compete. They screamed his name like he was a rock star instead of a bartender with an ass-length blond ponytail.
One of Deemer's groupies, a thick biker with a Santa Claus belly and a bushy, triangular goatee who called himself "Little Bill," raved. "Jonas is real personable," he said. "You'll see him in there, making five drinks and smoking two cigarettes at the same time, and you'd swear he's holding a lighter with his toes or something. He's the best bartender I've ever seen, and he's a good dude, which goes over bigger with me."
An under-the-judges-table interview uncovered another Johnny Dare's fan, a 22-year-old cook at Tizers named Mario Hernandez. He sported a mohawk and an undying love for Deemer. "He's the only bartender at Johnny Dare's who has flair," Hernandez said. "Everyone expects it of him. He pops open bottles and juggles things and has all kinds of bar tricks. And the waitresses all love him."
The judges, Camel rep Jeremy Scheuch, Miller rep Jeff Bransfield and Philip Steen of the Midwest Sport and Social Club, had the enviable job of watching, tasting and scoring. The first round should have been easy: Each bartender was timed as he pulled six beer bottles from behind the bar and popped off all six caps. But the favorite, Deemer, faltered in his turn, taking an eternity -- 18.78 seconds -- while the crowd chanted, "Jo-nas, Jo-nas." Huguinin won in 11.28.
Deemer vowed revenge between rounds. His secret weapon: his signature drink, called the Cherry Bomb. "Wanna know what's in it?" he asked. Then he listed a deadly combination of Jagermeister (which the contest required), amaretto, Cherry Pucker, Bacardi 151, cherry cordial, chocolate chip ice cream, whipped cream and cherries. Oh, and fire.
"There's going to be a shot of Jager trapped in the glass between two layers of whipped cream," he said.
The sight of Deemer's can of Reddi-wip was almost too much for Stoll to handle. "I suck them dry like a vampire," he said. He admitted he was a "whip-it junkie." Not to be confused with the whippet, a speedy dog, the whip-it involves taking pressurized cans of, say, Reddi-wip whipped cream and inhaling the nitrous oxide from them for a 5-second, dirty-feeling, brain-cell-terminating high. Stoll's so addicted that he begged his boss to stop buying whipped cream in 12-packs.
Whipped cream also played a role in the night's biggest highlight: During the signature-drink competition, Deemer, in Great White concert fashion, mixed whipped cream and fire.
He exhaled a cloud of bluish flame over his tall-glassed concoction, startling a woman into backing into the judges' table, which in turn knocked over a glass and dumped liquid and ice directly into the judges' laps. Unfazed, they watched as the Dark Horse's Neidenmeyer used a Super Soaker squirt gun to serve frothy shots of "Twisted Sex" and Huguinin coated a martini glass with Nesquik strawberry syrup for his "Berlin Lust." Nitrous oxide-tinged and happy, Stoll poured Jager over the back of a spoon to create three brown-red-and-green-striated drinks called "Rotten Apples." In the end, fire won the night, and Deemer's Cherry Bomb took first prize in that round.
But the night's overall winner, surprisingly, was Liberty bartender Huguinin, who won a four-day vacation "anywhere in the continental U.S." Deemer came in second. Stoll took third and won a hammock, which he promptly fell out of. I asked trucker-hat-wearing judge Jeremy Scheuch whether Deemer's biker fans worked against him. "Nah, it was the bottle-opening contest that killed him," Scheuch said and shrugged.
Meanwhile, RA Annie sidled up to a redheaded design student named Travis Porter, who said, "I think what I've learned tonight is that the best bartenders have ponytails. And that boys like fire." Which aptly summed up the evening, really.
From there, the night devolved into a drunken dance-floor freakfest, with music provided by DJ Reach, aka Semu Namakajo, who told us he's the DJ for Carson Daly's show. Never having watched Carson Daly on TV, I pretended to recognize him.
Event KC coordinator Carlos Lee promised to invite the real Night Ranger to next year's contest. It's all yours, Jen. This hangover's for you.