From inspired innovations to inspirational mentors, these are the 2014 Mixology Awards
Best New Bar: Oak & Ivy, Container Park
This award could also be given to 365 Tokyo, the Japanese-inspired microbar in Downtown’s Inspire Theater. But the fact that one can’t round up 20 of her closest friends and swing by—the bar is members-only, reservations-only and only seats 10—is somewhat prohibitive to the party. Instead, take that party over to Container Park, where Oak & Ivy is slinging well-made whiskey cocktails from a short list with some long history. Bartenders here are engaging and eager to share their knowledge if you’re in a thinking mood, or happy to just serve you a New York Sour and a smile if you’re not. OakAndIvy.com.
Mentor of the Year: Francesco Lafranconi
“We’re not drinking, we’re learning.” So goes the motto of Southern Wine & Spirits’ executive director of mixology and spirits education. Each year, Lafranconi ushers students of Southern’s 12-week Academy of Spirits and Fine Service toward a brighter future as beverage professionals with a combination of history, theory and spirits familiarization. But the learning doesn’t end at graduation; busy as he is, Lafranconi makes himself available to graduates throughout their careers, and celebrates their every achievement. Grazie infinite, Signore!
Best Bar Team: Herbs & Rye
I admit, I borrowed this category from Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards, because it’s the most accurate way to honor not just one bartender, but how a bar’s staff works cohesively. Under the direction of owner Nectaly Mendoza, the entire team at Herbs & Rye has snapped into place in a way that most bars would envy. I love the teamwork, the camaraderie and the passion—it shows in their cocktails and spirit of hospitality. And attendees at this year’s Bar Fight Club at Tales agreed, bestowing Herbs & Rye with the People’s Choice award. 3713 W. Sahara Ave., 702-982-8036, HerbsAndRye.com.
Best New Cocktail Book: The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, Jeffrey Morgenthaler (Chronicle, $30)
It’s written right in the prologue: “This book aims to be among the first in what will hopefully become an ongoing conversation about technique.” There’s no history of whiskey or vodka here, just page after page of the sort of nitty-gritty bartending technique that can only come from nearly two decades of trial and error, more trial and eventual success. He begins with juices, then syrups, bitters, ice and the methods of putting them all together with fine spirits. If you are embarking on a quest to become a proficient home bartender, this should be your first read. And if you are already a bar star, it’s never too late to learn some new tricks. JeffreyMorgenthaler.com.
Best New Bar Trend: Draft Cocktails
If you’ve been to Yusho in Monte Carlo, Mercadito in Red Rock Resort or Rose.Rabbbit.Lie. in the Cosmopolitan, then you know what a boon to high-volume bars this development has become. Here’s how it works: The ingredients to an entire cocktail (or most of them) are added to a 5-gallon keg that is hooked up to a draft system. The drinks are quickly poured and garnished before you can say, “Hey, is that a beer tap?” And if you haven’t tried a draft cocktail yet, just wait—I hear a number of places are planning to install them soon.
Best New Hangover Remedy: Never Hungover
The Maloof family’s Never Hungover is a blend of vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, nutrients and minerals that claims to help neutralize and process the toxins caused by alcohol in your liver and kidneys. The label reads, “shoot it or mix it,” but as I often forget to take hangover preventatives preventatively, I pour Never Hungover over ice and sip it to soothe the damage done by one drink too many. NeverHungover.com.
Best New Cocktail
At BLVD Cocktail Company, mixologist Juyoung Kang makes cocktails to suit the tastes of her guests. But for the Nevada finals of Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition, Kang created something to suit herself. And it blew the judges away. You see, Kang is lactose intolerant, so many cocktails are simply off the menu for her, including the Ramos Gin Fizz. In fact, that’s what inspired her winning entry, The Lacy Fizz, which delivers all the creamy mouthfeel of that soda-topped gin classic, but with a creative dairy-free twist: just gin, lemon juice, egg white and spiced syrup, shaken and topped with soda.
The magic is in Kang’s incredibly complex garage-fermented, tea-based milk punch soda, for which she did extensive research into dairy chemistry. The milk is curdled and strained out, leaving behind a creamy texture, but with significantly less of the lactic acid that she cannot stomach. Preparing the milk punch soda in advance made this drink seem deceivingly simple.
“I’m a problem solver, an innovator and someone who finds solutions to things that need adjusting,” Kang says. “My perspective is to always look ahead, research the past and marry the trends.”