The Lone Star State is a hub of high-quality cocktails these days, and the evening of February 20 was a great example. The judges at the Dallas regional for the Heaven Hill 2017 Bartender of the Year competition agreed that this night was the toughest one to call.
Bartenders from around the state, and even one from Arkansas, arrived at d.e.c. on dragon st., a private event space in the city. There was a lot of camaraderie among the bartenders from the start, and that didn’t go away as the competition heated up.
Luiggi Uzcategui, the Arkansas bartender, got off to a hot start. His energy was contagious, and his drinks were inventive and memorable. His performance was the picture of hospitality, and it was made all the more impressive by it being his first time in a competition.
He may have claimed the lone ticket to the finals in Puerto Rico if it weren’t for Chris Morris. He broke out from the pack in the second round and continued to mix like a pro until the very end. Judges Lynn House, Joaquín Simó and Midnight Rambler’s Chad Solomon felt Morris’ combination of ingenuity, poise and quick thinking made him a clear winner. That’s quite a compliment when you consider the skill of the seven bartenders he was up against.
The other bartenders, despite creating some truly delicious cocktails themselves, didn’t complain about the result. Some even took to social media to voice their support of Morris. This came as no surprise, as the thrilling evening was incredibly good-natured.
Chad Solomon, the local guest judge, said it was the best competition he had witnessed. He asked that Heaven Hill return to Dallas for the 2018 competition, and considering the amount of bartending talent Texas has to offer, that seems like a pretty safe bet.
Don’t lose track of the competition. Keep an eye out to see how Morris fares in the finals in Puerto Rico. He might just bring the $15,000 grand prize back to Texas.