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Eight bartenders, a bottle of gin, three drinks and 10 minutes… those were the rules in the first round of the Raleigh/Durham U.S. Bartenders Guild’s Bartenders Challenge. The bartenders went head to head creating three gin-based drinks: a classic gin recipe, their own gin creation and a gin cocktail using a secret ingredient provided by the judges. Judges for the day were Max Trujillo and Matthew Weiss, Co-hosts of NC F&B Podcast, Bartender Alex Flynn and Arjay Hinek. Each judge tasted the three drinks, scoring based on creativity, presentation, balance and proficiency and professionalism. Here, Trujillo and Weiss offer odds on the final four bartender contenders.
Kyle Erkes, a bartender at C. Grace, the Glenwood South jazz club and cocktail bar. This competition was his first bartending contest and he finished with the highest score.
Winning Odds: 3-1 Hot Kyle was a long shot at the prelims but took the trophy. Did he show us all of his tricks, or does he have anything left in the tank for the second round?
Ahmed Hasan is the beverage director at Vidrio, he recently moved to Raleigh from Baltimore.
Winning Odds: 4-1 The home-track was just enough to push Ahmed into the finals, though if it’s rainy on game-day, it could get ugly out there. Clear skies and he’s a shoo-in.
Rob Mariani is a bartender at Alley 26 in Durham and one of the owners of Behind the Stick Provisions, which makes Alley 26 Tonic, an original recipe artisan tonic.
Winning Odds: 3-2 Just missing the top spot by a nose, the dapper Durham drink-maker will come home to show his greatness. Odds-on favorite.
Lewis Norton is the bar manager at Bittersweet. He created and teaches classes in its monthly Gin Club.
Winning Odds: 2-1 If this was charm school, Lewis would be in the hall of fame. Will his charisma and hospitality coax the judges to victory?
The second and final round will be in August according to Kim Hammer, Vice-President of the Raleigh Durham chapter. “All four bartenders will be setting up their own ‘mini bar’ at the venue, and they will spend a period of time serving guests. Judges will be secretly [roaming] among the guests scoring on the same criteria as the first round.”
A limited number of tickets will be sold to the public for the final round.
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