It seems as though it is the season for cocktail competitions. Even though they surely run year-round, like their culinary compatriots, a whole host of comps have rolled through Portland over the past few months, highlighting spirits from light to dark, as well as local mixers worthy of note.
The latest was DISARONNO’s “Mixing Star” competition, where nearly twenty competitors from up and down the West Coast descended on Portland’s Spirit of ’77 bar to mix away for a chance to appear in a Bollywood film. A number of the city’s best stepped behind the stick for a chance to ascend in the rankings and make their on-screen debut, including Mindy Kucan of Beaker & Flask, recently named as a nominee for the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards for Best Restaurant Bar; Junior Ryan of Clyde Common, another TOTC Spirited Awards nominee; Sarah Rehmann, a Midwest transplant and one to watch; Adam Robinson of The Bent Brick and Rum Club; and Nick Keane, of the newly-opened Parish.
But in a whirlwind of mixing comps, what made the DISARONNO event such a draw for these local bartenders?
“The DISARONNO comp is specifically focused on personalities, the unique characteristics that make each competitor stand out from the rest of the crowd,” explains Nathan Gerdes, one of three Portland “Mixing Star” finalists who will fly down to Las Vegas this summer to compete in the next round – and a bartender repeatedly recognized in competitions like this. “With all the recent concentration on mixology and cocktails themselves, it’s fun to get back to entertaining and interacting with our guests; it’s an important skill for a bartender and that’s what this competition was based on.”
And while it seems as though there’s a new competition popping up every week, there are always bartenders interested in submitting their latest creations.
“For me they are essential to developing new skills. Most bartenders will only work a handful of bars in their career and since there is no central educational system for our industry, bartenders are rarely exposed to outside information,” says Gerdes. “I see competitions as a way for us to all come together and learn from each other. Comps are where you showcase your best skills, newest ideas, craziest tools; competitors bring their A game, what better place to gain inspiration and share ideas, techniques, and secrets. Every time I compete I walk away with some new idea or concept thanks to a fellow competitor, and I hope they do the same.”
Portland winners Mindy Kucan, Nathan Gerdes, along with San Francisco’s Victoria D’Amato Moran of Region Restaurant, will head to Vegas for the next round of the “Mixing Star” competition, before additional rounds are held in Berlin, Germany. The overall winner will then be flown to Mumbai, India, for their on-screen appearance. Good luck, all!
*Photo credit: DISARONNO