The Mixology Awards

Illustration by Mario Zucca

Illustration by Mario Zucca

Best Off-Menu Cocktail

Knowledge is power. And knowledge of an off-menu cocktail is absolute power. Which is what makes ordering a Valley of Fire at Vesper so alluring. Barman Rodger Gillespie took first place in this year’s Don Julio Tequila Challenge with his blend of reposado, Aperol, lemongrass syrup, lemon juice, egg white, orange bitters and–here comes the heat!–five drops of ghost chili tincture. Gillespie can still make his winning drink upon request for those in the know. Which now includes you. In the Cosmopolitan.

Best New Bar

There’s much to love about Velveteen Rabbit: great prices, easy Downtown location, private off-street parking. But at the end of the day it’s about the cocktails, and sisters/co-owners Christina and Pamela Dylag are doing it right. The Rabbit has just launched its fall menu with eight new dainty, spirit-forward originals, including the Cabin in Derry, Dutch 1575 and Autumnal Ritual. The art, the music, the patio–all works in progress. Just order a Spaceship, sit back and enjoy the rye. 1218 S. Main. St.

Best Bar Menu

Few people outside of the opening Revolution bar staff received mixologist Michael MacDonnellís bar-training manual in 2006. A pity. His thoughtfully compiled collection of recipes, cocktail theory and history was a precursor to the good things to come. Now Monte Carlo’s beverage director, MacDonnell installed a new cocktail program at Hit Bar & Lounge in early 2012. Shades of his Revolution manual, the Hit menu itself is worth a read. Twenty-one classic cocktails from the Americano to the Ward 8 populate the 46 leather-bound pages filled with historic patent art and spirit lore–as beautiful to look at as it is to read.

Best New Beer Cocktail

We spotted this trend coming our way two years ago, and accurately predicted that, soon, no cocktail menu would be without a solid beer cocktail. When it opened in Tivoli Village this year, Ogden’s Hops & Harvest knocked it out of the park with its Watermelon Cream cocktail: fresh watermelon puree, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and Heering cherry liqueur with Pyramid Weiss Cream spiced ale to create one of this summer’s best cocktails. And when summer finally gives up the ghost in the Southwest–well, hey, it’s watermelon season somewhere, right? 450 S. Rampart Blvd.

Best New Face in the Bar

She never actually left us. But after a short absence, it’s refreshing to see the familiar blond mane of Mariena Mercer once again floating above the crowd at Chandelier Bar. “Ms. Wizard” did depart the Cosmopolitan’s three-story center bar for a portfolio manager position with Bacardi. But even access to a lifetime supply of rum couldn’t lure her away for long. Mercer is back as a property mixologist and Chandelier’s “chef mixologist,” and she is about to unleash 10 new cocktails. Verbenas all around!

Best New Product

New bottles show up in the well and on the back bar in Las Vegas with dizzying regularity. So when a quartet of new spirits as meticulously researched and designed as The 86 Co. line arrives, appropriate space should be made. Fords Gin, Tequila Cabeza, the irreverent Aylesbury Duck (“Another vodka”) and the versatile Cana Brava 3-year Panama rum were created for bartenders by bartenders. Head to Herbs & Rye, Rx Boiler Room, Downtown Cocktail Room and Carnevino to try all four. Then call a cab.

Best New Cocktail Trend

At a recent cocktail competition, nearly every entry was served with an egg-white foam. At another, everything contained a pinch of some exotic salt. But right now, it’s all about the shrub. These Colonial-era sweetened vinegar-based syrups add depth and complexity, tangy acidity and a nice drying finish. They can be purchased by the bottle like aromatic bitters (Shrub & Co.) or house-made, such as those at Chandelier, Vesper, Downtown Cocktail Room and Delmonico Steakhouse. No relation to tiny trees, by the way.

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