Behind the Bar: Seattle’s Manhattan Experience

On 6 March 2017, five of Seattle’s top bartenders put their creativity and cocktail crafting skills to the test at the Palace Ballroom for the Woodford Reserve-sponsored ‘Manhattan Experience’. Their task – create “an original Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Cocktail that showcases the flavor profile of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked and that you would proudly serve to guests in your own bar.” Creating a cocktail sounds difficult enough. These bartenders had to create the cocktail, prepare it for a panel of judges in front of a crowd (packed with peers, friends, and potential customers), and explain how they came up with the drink and the ingredients. That’s not all. To reach this stage, they also had to submit a “classic Manhattan cocktail” recipe for review.

Starting Gate
From Left: Daniel Pagard, Scott Rixe, Kyle Takacs, Mark Sassi, Cody Goodwin; Manhattan Experience, Palace Ballroom, Seattle, 6 March 2017.

The stakes were high. The 6 March winner would advance to the next round, compete for a slot in the finals in NYC, and be flown to Kentucky to tour the Woodford Reserve distillery. The tour alone is a great prize. The historic distillery is in beautiful, rolling horse country near Versailles, Kentucky. But the talk of the evening was on the grand prize trip to the Kentucky Derby (and some good-natured local bragging rights).

leveled view of WR distillery
Woodford Reserve, Kentucky, spring 2016.

Kentucky and distillery shots-4

Leveled WR visitor center
Woodford Reserve Distillery visitor center, spring 2016.

Witness bartender Daniel Pagard led the way. Fitting, given his background as a Marine, which also provides some context for his cocktail creation, the Halls of Montezuma.

Manhattan Experience shots for blog second attempt-14
Daniel Pagard preparing the Halls of Montezuma, Manhattan Experience, Seattle, March 2017.

Poppy’s Scott Rixe paid homage to the Manhattan with his drink, The Boroughs.

Manhattan Experience shots for blog second attempt-16
Scott Rixe preparing The Boroughs, Manhattan Experience, Seattle, March 2017.

The Helm’s Kyle Takacs followed with his Orchard Manhattan.

Manhattan Experience shots for blog second attempt-20

The Sexton’s Mark Sassi reeled in the judges and crowd with Hook, Line & Sinker.

Manhattan Experience shots for blog second attempt-41

Single Shot’s Cody Goodwin capped off the evening with Quiet Twilight.

Manhattan Experience shots for blog second attempt-39

The judges had their work cut out for them, but they got to it without complaint and declared Cody Goodwin’s Quiet Twilight the winner. Daniel Pagard won the People’s Choice award. (A colleague of Mr. Pagard’s compared his loss to a recent U.S. election.)

MC 2 for blog
Manhattan Experience, Palace Ballroom, Seattle, March 2017.
Panel for blog
Panel of Judges, Manhattan Experience, Palace Ballroom, Seattle, March 2017.
Panel drink rear view for blog
Manhattan Experience, Palace Ballroom, Seattle, March 2017.

Note: No association with Woodford Reserve, Liquor.com, or USBG. I heard some of the folks at Witness discussing the event and thought it’d make for a fun writeup. I also remembered that I had some shots from the Woodford Reserve Distillery that I’d never posted. I stopped there on my meandering journey to Seattle. I unknowingly arrived after hours, but I drove in behind a couple of tour buses. Lucky timing. Beautiful setting. (I recognized some of the event photographers on hand at the Palace Ballroom and would like to provide a link to their coverage. I imagine they got some great video and photos. If you know their contact info, please send me a note.)

 

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