Last night, a dozen local bartenders gathered at Scottsdale's fashion-forward CANAL restaurant for an Iron Chef style competition which tested their cocktail making prowess. A few of the culinary scene's big names were also there, including chef James Porter and emcee Dave Johnson, head of the wine and spirits program at Sol y Sombra. When Johnson showed up in a beer-print shirt (think Hawaiian print, only sub beer mugs for the palm trees) and a Shriner fez, the audience knew they were in for one hell of a crazy show.
Three judges were tapped to fete the competitors, including Erin Conolley of Skyy Vodka and a mystery judge chosen from the audience. Of course, Mystery Judge turned out to be an incredibly hot and exotic beauty, but Johnson didn't have a hand in that. Audience members bid on the open judge seat, auction-style, and after a fevered race between two high rollers, a gentleman bowed out to the lady's top bid of $255.
More bartending action and photos behind the jump...
The fast-paced competition was held in 4 rounds, with winners from each round advancing to the finals. Each bartender was given two minutes to prepare after the "secret ingredient" -- which ranged from Wild Turkey to Green Tea liquor -- was announced, and then five minutes to prepare their cocktails.
Bar chefs were slicing, dicing and shaking madly in hopes of willing a Skyy Vodka prize package and a slot to compete in the National Bar Chef competition at this year's CRAVE Arizona event in October. The crowd was absolutely nuts for contestants Josh Hadley of Metro Brasserie and David Chase of CANAL. We're talking seriously W-I-L-D. Maybe it was just the copious amount of alcohol flowing, but one woman actually promised to have a three-way with Chase and his girlfriend if he won the competition. Damn! Now, that's showing the love.
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In the end, Michael Bunker of The Mission in Old Town Scottsdale took the title of Arizona's Top Bar Chef with his fruity strawberry lime green tea cocktail. This dude was all about presentation. He crafted his cocktails by candlelight and "set the stage" for the judges with sparklers, tea lights and a block of pink Himalayan rock salt. Some cried bribery, but we just say he had flair.
Check out more hot bartender action in our AZ Top Bar Chef slide show on Chow Bella.