What better way to kick off a new year than with an award-winning Manhattan? The Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience hosted its finals on January 12 in New York, where the winner of this year’s distinguished competition was crowned.
The exciting finale, held at the Bowery Hotel, marked the end of a long road of exhibitions and tastings that began back in October. In the search for the perfect Manhattan, bartenders around the country were challenged to create their ultimate version of the cocktail using Woodford Reserve bourbon. 30 regional winners emerged, but only six were chosen to compete in the cocktail’s namesake city during the finals.
Those six prominent bartenders represented cities from Pittsburgh to Portland, and each presented his or her twist on the Manhattan—plus an original cocktail recipe using Woodford Reserve—to the panel of esteemed judges. Master mixologists Jacques Bezuidenhout and Charles Joly, cocktail historian David Wondrich and master distiller Chris Morris rounded out the expert judging panel.
Hosted by industry legend Willy Shine, the event drew a crowd of hundreds who turned out to try the Woodford Reserve cocktails firsthand, enjoy Southern-inspired bites and witness the winner’s big reveal. After tasting all twelve cocktails from the top six finalists, the judges awarded first place to Allison Widdecombe of Denver’s Williams & Graham.
Widdecombe’s winning Woodford Reserve Manhattan featured both dry and sweet vermouth, and her original recipe, “Proven Perfect,” combined the Kentucky bourbon with oolong tea–infused ruby port, cardamom-infused Amèr Nouvelle and Fernet Branca. Both recipes showcased her talent and innovation in her craft, and proved that her Manhattan was truly worthy of big city glory.
As the official Master of the Manhattan, Allison also has a first-rate prize to look forward to: a trip to San Francisco where she’ll host her own video shoot with Woodford Reserve and Liquor.com—not to mention years of bragging rights.
Check out photo highlights from the competition and learn more about the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience and this year’s Master of The Manhattan now.