“Give us a seasonal sipper to aid our autumnal musings.” That’s what we asked of the 15 participating bartenders in our 2022 Cocktail Contest. What we got was a kaleidoscope of boozy interpretations. Because—what is fall in Utah anyway? A slow yawn of dwindling daylight and stubborn high temperatures that confuse our circadian rhythms. These mixologists knew all too well we weren’t ready to say goodbye to summer, and many of their creations included bright ingredients reflective of this in-between season. Others manifested summer’s heat in a more literal sense, waking up our tastebuds with fiery flavors. And, of course, all served as yet another reminder that Salt Lake’s mixology community is bursting with creativity and expertise.
Each of the 15 entries were exciting and delicious in their own way, which made our panel’s decisions that much more difficult. In our discussions of each cocktail with Libation SLC’s Francis Fecteau, we noted the frequent use of novel ingredients, imaginative garnishes and reinterpretations of classic recipes. We deliberated on how some entries made us feel nostalgic while others gave us visions of mad scientists creating delicious concoctions in a lab. Above all, we marveled at the bartenders who never fail to impress and make us want to keep on sipping no matter what season we’re in.
Reader’s Choice (1st Place with 2,653 Votes): The Green Dragon by Kenzi Anderson (Water Witch)
One of our favorite aspects of our annual competition is passing the baton to our readers, who sip and vote again and again in favor of their favorite drink. This year, that favorite is The Green Dragon by Water Witch’s Kenzi Anderson. Her fantastical take on a verde michelada was complex and fiery. On the nose: a spicy salad of tomatillos, hatch chillis and green bell peppers. To round out the vegetal ingredients, she added bright pineapple juice and soothing honey syrup. Paired with Wahaka mezcal and Ancho Reyes liqueur, The Green Dragon earned the top spot in the public’s heart and was frequently sold out night after night.
Reader’s Runner-Up (2nd Place with 1,814 Votes): A Slice of Summer by Mackenzie Wallace (Oquirrh)
Just as we held on to the last tendrils of summer, the public felt similarly wistful. The reader’s runner-up was A Slice of Summer—a refreshing watermelon and rum cocktail that allows a few simple ingredients to shine. Seasonal watermelon invokes memories of late summer and innocence, while the shrub and Sugar House Rum balances the sweetness and makes this a drink to satisfy both grown-ups and their inner child.
Judge’s Choice: Fruits of My Labor by Mckenzie Steel Foster (Post Office Place)
The Farm to Glass competition is an opportunity for participants and judges alike to stop and consider, “what makes a good cocktail?” Balance, yes. Flavor, of course. But a cocktail that puts the power back into the hands of the drinker reminds us of why we enjoy mixology, to begin with. Served in two glasses, Fruits of My Labor presents a choice. In the one hand, a spicy sangrita composed of persimmons, tangerine, cactus flower, Thai basil, habanero, jalapeno, serrano, and mint rimmed with spicy cricket salt. In the other, an earthy and bright Tobala Mezcal by Wahaka. Will you lick, sip or shoot? This follow-your-own-adventure cocktail was downright exciting to drink.
Honorable Mentions and Superlatives
Daredevil: Chameleon by Sam Miller and Mikey Edwards (Island Time)
The Chameleon is like two cocktails crashed into each other and our judges couldn’t look away (or stop drinking). Whoever thought this traffic accident of cocktails would be so irresistible?
Inadvertently Viral: The Utah Sbagliato by Drew Paulsen (Current Fish & Oyster)
Inspired by the Aperol spritz and a Negroni Sbagliato, The Utah Sbagliato burst onto the scene well before a certain House of the Dragon actress proclaimed her love for the Sbagliato, leading to a surge in its popularity as many people “discovered” the cocktail for the first time. But we all know, The Utah Sbagliato was ahead of the curve.
Mad Scientist: The Munson by Mellina Borjas (International)
The Munsen is topped with an ingenious (and delicious) mascarpone foam that took some serious chemistry skills to pull off. We’re excited to see what new concoctions Borjas cooks up next in her lab.
One to Watch: The Desert Bloom by Dominick Medel (BTG Wine Bar).
The Desert Bloom sure is a pretty cocktail, and she has us all flustered. On top of being a looker, she manages to be both complex yet drinkable. The sweet and tart cactus flower puree and Hamilton White ‘Stache Rum are heightened by herbaceous basil and a spicy kick from some jalapeño.
Nostalgic Bomb: ‘Hear me Roar’ by Maddy Schmidt (Alibi Bar & Place)
‘Hear Me Roar’ could be described as a boozy elevated strawberry milkshake that transports us back to the days of getting brain freeze on hot summer days as we try to slurp down our frosty beverages as fast as we can before they melt. But you’ll want to take your time with this cocktail and savor the flavors and nostalgia it brings.
Cheers to another exciting cocktail competition in the books! Thank you to Libation SLC for sponsoring this year’s prizes, and thank you to every bartender who participated. Of course, we’d also like to thank our readers for voting and supporting the industry. Until next year!
Want to know more about our annual Farm to Glass competition? See who won our 2021 contest here!
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