Justin Cardwell of BC’s Kitchen and his innovative The French Connection cocktail took top honors last night at the Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender Search, presented by United States Bartenders’ Guild and GQ Magazine and supported locally by Major Brands.
Cardwell will move on to represent St. Louis at the Bombay-sponsored USBG Bartender Summit in Las Vegas, Nev., Sept. 9 to 12. The winner of the competition in Vegas will attend the Global Finals. The winner will also be featured on the cover of GQ’s Men of the Year issue and bartend at the GQ Man of the Year event in Los Angeles (one has to wonder what will happen if a woman wins the top prize).
Cardwell’s concoction was a reinvention of The Last Word, a pre-Prohibition classic made with equal parts gin, maraschino liqueur, green Chartreuse and fresh lime juice. Cardwell shook together Bombay Sapphire gin with St-Germain, lime juice, housemade lavender bitters and dehydrated green Chartreuse. The powdered Chartreuse “bloomed” in the cocktail, adding its distinctly sweet, herbal notes without masking the gin’s citrusy flavor, one of the keys to the cocktail’s win.
Bartenders were able to create any style of cocktail and prepare it in any way they wished, but it could have no more than seven ingredients and had to be easily replicable in bars across the country. Thirteen St. Louis barkeeps competed in the competition, each finding a unique way to showcase the Bombay gin. SubZero Vodka Bar’s Dustin Parres highlighted Hoja Santa, a giant herb that smells and tastes like root beer. Matt Sorrell of Cocktails Are Go! made an orange blossom-infused flip with Bombay, Aperol and the Big O. Sanctuaria’s Joel Clark, who took home top honors last year, stirred up a swizzle with passion fruit and a housemade shrub, a refreshing, balanced mix that let the gin shine.
Brand ambassador Nick Kosevich, proprietor of Bittercube in Milwaukee, Wis., was lead judge, and was accompanied by fellow judges Ted Kilgore of Taste and Feast publisher Cat Neville. The event was hosted at Diablito’s Cantina.