2021 Salt Lake Magazine Cocktail Contest

Note: Voting for this contest is now closed. View the winners of this year’s contest.

How many bartenders does it take to make a cocktail contest? Twelve. But they’ll all tell you how much better they made cocktail contests at their last bar. So it goes with bartenders. Cocky and brash are part of the deal—especially for 12 of the city’s best drink-slingers. Last September, we invited a dirty dozen of these scoundrels to a photoshoot at The Shop, a new co-working space inside one of those apartment/condo things that are going up everywhere. It was neutral ground for a friendly and nerdily competitive group who were there to give us their best shot(s) for the 2021 Salt Lake magazine cocktail contest. (BTW, it was also a Sunday morning after the Saturday shift. Luckily, there was plenty of hair of the dog on hand.)

Bartenders competing in Salt Lake Magazine 2021 Cocktail Contest at The Shop
Bartenders Assemble! We gathered some of the city’s best drink-slingers together to share tales and locally sourced drink recipes.
Top row (l-r): Jacob Sanders, Nick Harward, Esther Nemethy, Michaela Dransfield, Maddy Schmidt, Christopher Stephenson
Bottom row (l-r): Joel Aoyagi, Michael Montoya, Adam “Scoop” Kaessner, Dominick Medel

The back story? Each year we invite a selection of the city’s craftiest craft cocktail creators to make a seasonal cocktail, using fresh ingredients and local spirits. And then we ask you, yes you, to tell us what you think. Each of the bars and their tenders in our contest will serve up their special concoctions from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30. We merely ask you to go drink. Then, go drink again and cast your votes below. If you’re not ready to go out, we got you. We asked all of our contestants to provide recipes suitable for the home bar. (Bonus: You can decide how much “holiday spirit” you want.) Mix at home or belly up to the bar, and ballot-box stuffing is encouraged. Finally, a rabbi, a priest and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, “Is this some kind of joke?” Nope. Sip. Vote. Repeat. 

Adam “Scoop” Kaessner
Water Witch

Seething Song, a cocktail created by Adam “Scoop” Kaessner of Water Witch

Seething Song

1 oz Neisson Rum
1 oz Pisco Logia 
1 oz Cappelletti
1 oz strawberry gardenia mix (below)
¾ oz lemon
Top with Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco 
Pair with Caputo’s presents Wild Jura chocolate 
Strawberry cappelletti powder (below)

Strawberry Gardenia Mix

115 grams butter
115 grams Hollow Tree wildflower honey
20 grams freeze-dried strawberries
25 grams Cappelletti
5 grams salt 

Simmer all except strawberries over low heat. Stir to combine. Add and macerate strawberries for 10 minutes. Strain and keep at room temperature.

Cappelletti Powder 

Pour a few ounces of Cappelletti on a baking tray dehydrate or set in the sun until liquid has evaporated. Scrape off the sheet and blend with salt and freeze-dried strawberries.

Read more about Adam.

Joel Aoyagi

The Malouf, a cocktail created by Joel Aoyagi of Stoneground

The Malouf

¼ oz lemon juice
¼ oz dry Curacao
1½ oz roasted parsnip juice
¾ oz cinnamon simple
¾ oz spiced rum
¾ oz vodka
2 dashes of black walnut bitters
Orange swath (expressed)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Salt Lake editor Mary Malouf used to joke about the possibility of a parsnip cocktail. Now it’s happened, and it’s named for her. We’re sure she’d be tickled.

Read more about Joel.

Maddy Schmidt

Dead Man's Party, a cocktail created by Maddy Schmidt of Alibi

Dead Man’s Party

1 oz Beachbum Berry Hamilton Zombie Blend
1 oz Wahaka Mezcal Espadin 
¾ oz lime juice 
½ oz Caffe Lolita 
¾ oz pineapple ancho shrub

Combine all ingredients in shaker. Shake and strain onto crushed ice.

Pineapple Ancho Shrub

14 oz pineapple juice
5 ancho chilies 
4 tbs peppercorns  
1 cup apple cider vinegar 
4 cups sugar 

Combine all ingredients in large saucepan. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Cool.  

Read more about Maddy.

Jacob Sanders
Post Office Place

A Good Sarsaparilla, a cocktail created by Jacob Sanders of 
Post Office Place

A Good Sarsaparilla

1½ oz Wahaka Mezcal Espadin
½ oz sarsaparilla syrup
Tarragon vinegar
Rinse rocks glass
Butter extract
Root beer extract
Sugar shard for garnish
Bar spoon of tarragon vinegar

Combine mezcal, sarsaparilla syrup, and tarragon vinegar in mixing glass, add ice, stir until properly diluted. In rocks glass, add 20 drops butter extract then ice on top, stir to coat glass, dump ice and butter. Add big rock to glass, top with cocktail. Garnish with sugar shard on the rim.

Sarsaparilla Syrup

4 tbs sarsaparilla bark
1 cup hot water
1 cup demerara sugar

Combine 2 tbs of sarsaparilla bark with 1 cup of hot water. Set aside to steep for 2 hours. Once steeped, combine with 1 cup demerara sugar and remaining 2 tbs of sarsaparilla bark in a pot on stovetop. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Let stand for 30 minutes. Fine strain with cheese cloth and enjoy!

Read more about Jacob.

Michael Montoya
Beehive Distilling

Remedial Rose, a cocktail created by Michael Montoya of Beehive Distilling

Remedial Rose

1½ oz Wahaka Mezcal Espadin
½ oz Lunazul Reposado
⅕ oz (at least) local SGH Honey
1 oz Rose hip tea
3 dashes Bitters Lab Plum and Oak Bitters

Read more about Michael.

Esther Nemethy
Bambara (The Vault)

London Foggy, a cocktail created by Esther Nemethy of Bambara (The Vault)

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.

Read more about Esther.

Christopher Stephenson
Lake Effect

Second Iteration, a cocktail created by Christopher Stephenson of Lake Effect

Second Iteration

1½ oz Sugar House Distillery Rye
½ oz Holystone Distilling Bosun’s Navy Strength Gin
½ oz Sfumato Rabarbaro 
3 dashes Bitters Lab Celery and Coriander bitters
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz manuka honey and marigold tea syrup.

Manuka Honey and Marigold Tea

1 part manuka honey 
1 part marigold tea 

Combine by pouring hot tea directly over the honey, stir on low heat until honey is completely dissolved. Let cool. Store in refrigerator. 

Read more about Christopher.

Kacie Wilks

Blood of a Unicorn, a cocktail created by Kacie Wilks of Oquirrh

Blood of a Unicorn

1½ oz ginger shrub⁠
½ oz lime⁠
1½ oz Wahaka Mezcal

Hard short shake. Top with soda or ginger beer. Shave fresh nutmeg. Garnish with candied ginger.

Read more about Kacie.

Dominick Medel
BTG and Caffe Molise

Smokey the Pear, a cocktail created by Dominick Medel of BTG and Caffe Molise

Smokey the Pear

1 oz Wahaka Mezcal
3/4 oz ginger nutmeg all spice simple syrup
½ oz lime juice
1 oz pear juice

Shake/strain. Use coupe glass. Use spiral pear zest for garnish.

Ginger Syrup

1/4 cup all spice
1/4 cup nutmeg
1 cup peeled chopped ginger
4 cups water
4 cups sugar

Boil for 20 minutes. Cool.

Read more about Dominick.

Nick Harward
Mortar and Pestle

Fire and Earth, a cocktail created by Nick Harward of Mortar and Pestle

Fire and Earth

1½ oz Ransom Barrel Gin
⅜ oz beet syrup
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Bittercube Blackstrap Bitters
Holystone Distilling Absinthe rinse

Combine all ingredients and stir down. Large cube ice. Rocks glass.Add candied beet, lemon wheel.

Beet Syrup

32 oz water
32 oz sugar
6 peeled beets
¼ oz tarragon
Zest of 3 lemons
1 cinnamon stick
1 cedar stick

Toast cinnamon and cedar until aromatic (2-4 minutes). Add sugar and water and stir until sugar dissolves. Add beets, lemon zest and tarragon and let simmer on medium low for 25-30 minutes. Garnish with half lemon moon and tarragon.

Read more about Nick.

Eli Larson Hays
SLC Eatery

The Alta Peruvian, a cocktail created by Eli Larson Hays of SLC Eatery

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.

Read more about Eli.

Michaela Dransfield

Sex Dreams, a cocktail created by Michaela Dransfield of Undercurrent

Sex Dreams

⅞ oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz unsweetened mango purée 
¾ oz Bar Daddy Orgeat
¾ oz over-proof aged rum, ideally Beachbum Berry Hamilton Zombie Blend or Plantation OFTD 
¾ oz Sugar House Distillery Rye

Whip on crushed ice, dump into your favorite mug. Float ½ oz Angostura Bitters (Pop that top and pour it out!) Garnish with banana leaves and edible orchid. 

Read more about Michaela.

Let’s Talk Shop, or ‘The Shop’

The location for the 2021 Cocktail Contest photo shoot, The Shop Workspace, opened its doors last April, with an eye for local art and Utah-inspired design. Giv Development and New Orleans-based partner Domain Companies are behind the project, located near the Salt Lake Library inside the Mya, a mixed-income residential development. The Shop is a bright and airy three-floor setup with more than 30,000 square feet of furnished co-working space, including private offices, event space, a full kitchen, a roof-top deck overlooking the mountains, multiple meeting rooms and, of course, a bar.
350 E. 400 South, SLC, 801-980-2660, shopworkspace.com

We Got Lit (With Alpha-Lit SLC)

The “BAR” backdrop for our cover and many of our bartender portraits were giant three-foot tall marquee letters provided by Alpha-Lit. The company (with locations in LA, Jackson Hole and SLC) rents out three-foot tall illuminated letters, symbols and numbers to create bright, unforgettable displays. Although celebrating weddings is owner Julie Johnson’s main line, the company will also show up at any celebration at all. (Picture “Lordy, look who’s 40!” in giant letters at your friend’s big 4-0.) And thankfully for us, they helped liven up our cocktail contest photo shoot featuring 12 of the city’s best drink slingers.
alphalitletters.com, 435-757-2605 

Jacob Sanders, Maddy Schmidt, Joel Aoyagi, Michaela Dransfield and Adam “Scoop” Kaessner, bartenders competing in the Salt Lake Magazine 2021 Cocktail Contest, gather on the roof of The Shop in front of marquee letters from Alpha-Lit SLC
(L-r): Jacob Sanders, Maddy Schmidt, Joel Aoyagi, Michaela Dransfield, Adam “Scoop” Kaessner

All photos are by Austen Diamond. Follow him on Instagram @austendiamondphoto. Find this issue on newsstands Nov. 1.

Salt Lake Magazine
Salt Lake Magazinehttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Salt Lake is your best guide to the Utah lifestyle. From food to fashion, travel and the arts, Salt Lake magazine has something for everyone. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @SLmag.

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