Esther Nemethy/Bambara (The Vault): 2021 Salt Lake Magazine Cocktail Contest

Each year, we ask a selection of Utah’s best bartenders to use local spirits and local ingredients and hit us with their best shot (or shots). So last Sept. 12, bartenders bravely gathered on a Sunday morning after the Saturday night late shift to swizzle up some hair of the dog and present their entries into the 2021 Salt Lake magazine Cocktail Contest. They didn’t disappoint. Through Nov. 30, we invite you to drop in to their bars and try their creations (or mix them up yourself at home). Pick your favorites and click the image below to cast your vote.

How long behind the bar? Seven years, but working in restaurants for more than ten.

What’s your favorite after-shift drink? I typically like to stick with the classics. One of my go-to cocktails, Naked and Famous (mezcal, yellow chartreuse, Aperol, lime), is more of a new classic. Corpse Reviver (Cointreau, Lillet, absinthe, lemon) is always good. And, honestly, a solid margarita is one of my favorites. 

What is the “star ingredient” of your CC entry? Falernum. It’s sort of like a spicy orgeat. 

What’s your favorite drink to make? I make a really good margarita. I probably made 10,000 of them when I lived in San Diego, so I have the margarita dialed in. 

What’s the secret to the perfect margarita? It’s simple. Fresh lime juice, fresh agave syrup and a solid mezcal or tequila.

What’s a drink that makes you cringe? Mojitos. All the way. Mint is the glitter of bar tins, you’re never getting it all out, no matter how many times you rinse it, and every drink you make after that will have chunks of mint in it.  

Best hangover cure? A long run and a bagel. I have to sweat it out, even if I feel like absolute death. 

Why do you love bar work? For me, it’s about meeting interesting people and hearing their stories. Since Bambara is a hotel, you have a lot of travelers coming through, so I learn a ton from meeting people from all over. I joke that I should have an honorary degree in psychology after working in a bar for this long. It’s always interesting to me how many people will reveal their deepest darkest secrets to someone they do not know and will never see again.

Esther Nemethy, bartender at Bambara, with her cocktail London Foggy
Esther Nemethy/Bambara (The Vault); Photo by Austen Diamond

London Foggy

½ oz Earl Grey-Thyme syrup
¾ oz John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum (if you don’t have Velvet Falernum at home, substitute ¼ oz Fee Brothers Falernum sold at Caputo’s)
¾ oz Lemon juice
1½ oz Ransom dry gin
1 dash Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters

Rim coupe glass with a lemon wedge and dip in fall spice mix. Combine Earl Grey Syrup, Velvet Falernum, lemon juice, and gin into shaker. Add ice, shake, and strain into a coupe glass. Top with one dash of black walnut bitters.

Fall Spice Rim

1 tsp ground all spice
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp ground pink peppercorns
1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp Earl Grey tea
1 tsp ground cardamom

Combine all spices in a bowl and mix until combined.

Salt Lake Magazine
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