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Bartenders compete to craft the best rum cocktail

Sundays often become fun days for those who work in the hospitality industry.

On Sunday night, dozens of bartenders and others in the restaurant business gathered at The Golden, Fort Wayne’s new farm-to-table restaurant for a friendly competition.

Nine mixologists made rum-based cocktails. About 200 co-workers, friends and customers gathered to cheer them on and sip the creations.

Indiana Wholesale Wine & Liquor, which sells Plantation Rum, helped gather some of the state’s best bartenders (and one from Louisville). “The idea for this event was to create an environment of hospitality to get together,” said Patty Nix, head barkeep at The Golden, who had the idea for the event.

The competitors, along with where they work and the name of their cocktails, were:

  • Emily Sweeney from Down One Bourbon Bar in Louisville:
    The Professor Meets the 20th Century, made with plantain soda and pineapple sorbet.
  • Maggie Czech from Vegetable Buddies in South Bend:
    Daybreak Sour, made with a black pepper/charred pineapple simple syrup and curacao.
  • Eli Sanchez from Root in Indianapolis:
    Island Water, made with pineapple and calamansi juices, Coco Lopez with coffee and three rums.
  • Sam Albertson from Wine Down in Fort Wayne:
    Dark, Rich and Handsome, made with amaretto, coffee liqueur and cedar bitters he made.
  • Shelby Minnix from The Golden in Fort Wayne:
    Plum Star, made with honey/star anise syrup, reduced plums and lemon juice.
  • Brooke Donegan, who has worked behind a number of South Bend bars:
    The Fickle Mission, made with allspice dram, rhubarb/peach reduction and bitters.
  • Trevor Scovel from Wine Down and Sidecar in Fort Wayne:
    Tranquility & Chill, made with lime juice, coconut cream, banana liqueur and served frozen.
  • Steve Simon from Marrow in Indianapolis:
    His drink was made with apple/rhubarb/cider blend, pear liqueur and tiki bitters.
  • Spencer Maule from The Golden in Fort Wayne:
    Tiki Old Fashioned made with a coffee-laced syrup, bitters and three rums.

After making samples for the crowd, the competitors had five minutes each to make and present the drinks to the four judges.

They were judged mostly on flavor, but also on creativity and presentation. The judges were Tom Westerhof of and Flavor 574; Freddy Sarkis, formerly of the Broken Shaker in Chicago and now a consultant for other bars; Alex Renshaw, a mixologist and founding partner of The Dogma Group restaurants in Chicago; and myself.

Eli Sanchez finishes his Island Water drink. Flavor 574 photo/Marshall V. King
Eli Sanchez finishes his Island Water drink. Flavor 574 photo/Marshall V. King

Sanchez won the event, his second bartending competition win in Fort Wayne. He’s competing at another event today in Chicago. His win Sunday garnered him a weekend trip to Chicago to enjoy himself.

Simon finished second and Maule third. Minnix won the people’s choice award.

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