Ophelia’s shut down for a night to help find the Heaven Hill 2017 Bartender of the Year. Some of the best bartenders from Denver, and one from Utah, arrived at the elegant bar to compete for a trip to Puerto Rico and a shot at $15,000.
The bartending community in Denver is pretty tightly knit, so many of the competitors knew each other. While this created a sense of camaraderie, none of the bartenders lost their competitive edge. Everyone at Ophelia’s brought their A-game. Judges Lynn House, Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Denver’s own Chad Michael George couldn’t find a weak link in the group.
The judges also had trouble finding a clear winner in the first round. Everyone had a strong sense for hospitality and made balanced and delicious cocktails. The scores were close going into the second and final round, which is when McLain Hedges emerged as the favorite.
Hedges’ cocktails were packed with flavor, and his attitude was precisely what the judges were looking for. His passion rubbed off on the other competitors. That showed when he was announced as the winner, and all of the bartenders were happy for him. And this wasn’t just them being polite. The mutual respect was obvious as the bartenders followed the event by going to a different bar together.
Hedges will be off to Puerto Rico soon, facing off with bartenders who won the regional events around the country.
Think this is the year a Denver bartender wins it all? Stayed tuned to find out what happens in the 2017 Heaven Hill Bartender of the Year finals.