Eli Larson Hays/SLC Eatery: 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.

The Alta Peruvian, the 2021 Salt Lake Magazine Cocktail Contest entry from SLC Eatery, includes a handmade syrup that took months to perfect.

How long behind the bar? Five years, depending on how you count 2020.

What’s your favorite after-shift drink? Nothing too fancy. I’m usually reaching for a cheap, clean lager—anything from a High Life or Pabst to a nice craft beer like SaltFire’s NZed Pilsner or TF’s Kellerbier.

What is the “star ingredient” of your CC entry? I carefully picked out each ingredient to shine in its own way, but I put a lot of time into hand making my almond and sesame orgeat syrup. I spent months perfecting it. 

What’s your favorite drink to make? Daiquiri. There are countless ways to make it, and they are almost all delicious. 

What’s a drink that makes you cringe? Long Island iced tea—there’s not even any tea in it, and none of the ingredients seemed to be picked with any intention. 

Best hangover cure? Ironically, probably a Long Island iced tea! But for me, it’s usually takeout brunch and a homemade spritz on the couch. 

Got a bar joke? I’ve been told by many tourists that Utah’s liquor laws read like a joke. 

Why do you love bar work? I love the creativity and the fast pace, and I love putting a drink in front of someone and seeing the look on their face when they are pleasantly surprised or intrigued by something they haven’t tried before.

What is a cocktail/spirit you used to hate but now you love? Why?  When I was first discovering cocktails, I had a few too many Negronis in one night and it made it hard for me to enjoy Campari. But after a trip to Italy, there was no way I couldn’t fall in love with that bitter red devil. Now I especially love it when it is simply topped off with soda. I think I had one yesterday at brunch, actually. 

Eli Larson Hayes, bartender at SLC Eatery, with his cocktail The Alta Peruvian
Eli Larson Hays/SLC Eatery; Photo by Austen Diamond

The Alta Peruvian

1½ oz Peruvian Pisco Logia
¼ oz Benedictine and Brandy Liqueur
½ oz Yuzu juice
¼ oz house-made almond and sesame orgeat syrup 
2 dashes of chocolate bitters

Shake and double strain into a Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with sesame gastrique and sesame seeds on the glass, candied squash and micro greens on a pick.

Salt Lake Magazine
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