A lot is expected from New York bartenders. And when they’re competing for a spot in the Heaven Hill Bartender of the Year finals, the pressure is even greater.
The regional finalists, coming from Manhattan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and more, had to pull out all the stops to impress the industry titans judging the competition. Lynn House, Allen Katz and Joaquín Simó were evaluating the cocktails but were also eyeing each competitor’s presence behind the bar.
The competition took place at Allen Katz’s New York Distilling Co. in Brooklyn. It has a fully operational bar, which served as the stage for the bartenders. Things kicked off with personal takes on classic American cocktails.
Nathan O’Neill immediately stood out. His cocktails were complex and showcased the brands, but his comfort behind the bar separated him from the competition. A cash prize of $15,000 and free trip to Puerto Rico were at stake, but he still carried himself like it was a regular Monday night at his bar.
Other bartenders raised their game as well. Hemant Pathak brought passion and precision to each of his cocktails. Michael Anderson had competed in the regionals the previous year, so he was ready for the challenges the judges threw his way. But Anderson’s steady presence and innovative cocktails were only enough good enough for second place.
The decision was unanimous. Nathan O’Neill won a trip to Puerto Rico for the opportunity to compete for $15,000 in the finals. His cocktails stuck pretty close to the classics. But his warm and inviting demeanor, coupled with his well-balanced recipes, made him an easy choice.
Of course, the competition doesn’t end in New York. Nathan O’Neill will soon be off to Puerto Rico to face off against the other regional winners. Think his presence and skill will earn him a $15,000 payday?
Stay tuned to find out.