On Monday night, 16 bartenders from across five states went head-to-head in a series of Iron Chef-style bartending contests as a part of Last Slinger Standing, the premier bartending competition in the Southwest. The event, part of Arizona Cocktail Week, was held at “The Coop” at Culinary Dropout at The Yard in Tempe and included competitors from United States Bartenders Guild chapters in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.
After more than three hours of drink-making and four rounds of competitions, New Mexico bartender Andrew David Roy claimed the night's top prize, marking the second year in a row an Arizonan has failed to bring home the win. Roy has worked in the beverage industry for five years, and can be found tending bar at Coyote Cafe and Radish & Rye in Santa Fe.
For those who aren't familiar, here's how the competition works: In each one-on-one heat, organizers give two bartenders a base spirit and modifier to use in a cocktail, which the competitors have six minutes to create. Both bartenders' drinks are then judged by a panel of three drink experts, with the winning cocktail's creator moving forward to the next round.
In the final six-minute heat, Roy faced off against Colorado's Les Baker in a challenge featuring Slow & Low Rock and Rye and Guinness. For the final two rounds the bartenders were also given a specific technique to use in their drinks' creation — in this case Roy and Baker were asked to use the PolyScience Smoking Gun.
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This year, metro Phoenix's bartenders struggled to make it out of the first few rounds. In round one, Bitter & Twisted's Timothy LaFevre faced Denver's Brittany Wangsness — the duo also went head-to-head in the final round of last year's Last Slinger Standing. And like last year, LaFevre failed to snag the win, though the judges noted both cocktails, made with Patron and Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. syrups, were "very good" and "aromatic." The Valley's only other competitor, Clint Spotleson of Counter Intuitive, made it through to the second round, where he was knocked out by Adam Kaessner of Salt Lake City in a heat featuring scotch and Lillet.
Last year, Wangsness became the first winner come from out outside metro Phoenix in the event's four-year history, but with this year's win from team New Mexico, it seems it may be harder than we thought for Arizona to reclaim the title. This was also the first Last Slinger Standing to include teams from five states (up from three last year), and while the increased competition may make it hard for the home team to snag the win, we're happy to see the event's organizers raising the bar from year to year.
For more information about Last Slinger Standing, visit the Arizona Cocktail Week website.