The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2017

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Page 26 of 124

26  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2017 SIN CITY SIPS L ast July, four Las Vegas bartend- ers joined their colleagues from other Southwest markets at Rx Boiler Room in Mandalay Bay to crown the region's Most Imaginative Bartender for Bombay Sapphire Gin and GQ magazine. While the day ultimately belonged to the winner from another city, I was utterly overwhelmed by the collective creativity of the Vegas contingent. Vesper's Julian Luna presaged the sustain- ability awakening with reusable and repurpos- able elements—right down to his slate coasters, clay cups, and botanical-infused olive oil. The Delano's Juyoung Kang invited us to drink under the stars with her cocktail inspired by Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night," suspending a citrus peel star over her drink with a curved cocktail pick. Free agent Cody Fredrickson based his Blue Opus on the chord of the song "Because" by The Beatles: citric acid, Darjeeling tea, apple, and gin (C-D-A-G). Last but not least, Starboard Tack co-owner Lyle Cervenka pulled off an incredible savory cocktail, with an oyster flower leaf impart- ing briny flavor with none of the mollusk. This summer's entries have been no less excit- ing. Take, for example, Sarah Delgado-Rith, the winner of the inaugural United States Bartenders' Guild Las Vegas chapter (USBGLV) Cocktail Competition. In the first round, 50 hopefuls submitted a recipe expressing what Las Vegas means to them. After a rigorous competition, three finalists then took over a pool bar at Harrah's Casino, presenting an entire menu of original cocktails (apéritif, long drink, spirit forward, dessert, and "dealer's choice") and demonstrated their hospitality skills for a bar full of willing volunteer "customers." In the end, it was Delgado-Rith who most impressed the judges: Raul Faria, President of the USBGLV; Herbs & Rye owner Nectaly Mendoza; and Libertine Social Partner Tony Abou-Ganim. Delgado-Rith's Storybook Bar concept came complete with stitched-and-bound menu books, literary-inspired cocktails and handwritten quotes as garnishes, plus some exceptional service and drinks. "Sarah stood out in the finals by truly focusing on hospitality, using her bar as a stage," says Faria. Coming full circle with Bombay Sapphire, certified overachiever SeongHa Lee knocked a slew of socks off with his 2017 competition entry, At Journey's End (née Teatime at Laverstoke Mill), which featured both a botanical tea and a tincture of his own creation. At the finals in England, Lee's presentation included a teacup and sau- cer, a ceramic bird with incense cone, an hourglass, a recipe book, and a 3-D lamp depicting Bombay's greenhouse. Although Lee won the guest shift challenge, it was Annie Williams Pierce of Columbus, Ohio who ultimately took the title of Most Imaginative Bartender—the first woman to do so. Now that's one for the books! LAS VEGAS BARTENDERS HIT THE BOOKS TO UP THEIR COCKTAIL CREATION GAME by Xania V. Woodman Storybook Endings PHOTO: JOSE M. SALINAS Las Vegas bartender SeongHa Lee was one of the finalists in Bombay Sapphire's Most Imaginative Bartender competition with his At Journey's End cocktail. Sarah Delgado-Rith took first place in the inaugural USBG Las Vegas Cocktail Competition. Delgado-Rith decorated her Storybook Bar, pictured at left, with flowers and served her cocktails with handwritten quotes taken from the stories that inspired her menu. PHOTO: JOSE M. SALINAS PHOTO COURTESY OF BOMBAY SAPPHIRE

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