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What Inspires the Talented Finalists of the Tequila Herradura Legends Competition?

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The slate is set for the finale of the Tequila Herradura Legends competition. Bartenders will be traveling to Mexico for the experience of a lifetime. They’ll get a VIP distillery tour at the last true tequila-producing hacienda on the planet, explore popular and historic attractions and—most importantly—face off for the grand prize in the global competition.

The finale is happening on October 23 and the final competition will be broadcast on Tequila Herradura’s Facebook page. Looking back is the perfect way to preview the action. Hundreds of bartenders brought their best to regional competitions across the US. Only 26 advanced to Mexico. This is who they are, where they’re from and what inspires them.

Naomi Levy | Boston, MA

Her original recipe was inspired by her Israeli heritage and childhood. “This cocktail is named for the park next to my grandmother’s house in Tel Aviv,” Levy said. “The

harissa, fresh herbs and heirloom tomato of my earliest food memories perfectly complement the vegetal notes of Herradura Silver.”

Eddie DiDonato | Winooski, VT

Scythes aren’t used to harvest agave, but they are the inspiration for DiDonato’s original recipe. He explained: “I see it as homage to the grittiness of the Herradura farmers who harvest only the finest blue agave so we can have this incredibly clean spirit to work with behind our bars.”

Michael Cadden | Seattle, WA

Cadden’s winning recipe stood out in large part because of its BBQ pineapple rhubarb shrub. Leftover pineapple slices from a summer barbecue were the inspiration behind this secret ingredient. “I decided to cook them over the coals one day after dinner. After juicing them, the smoke was a little intense, so I added some rhubarb syrup, along with apple cider vinegar and the shrub was born.”

Christian Suzuki-Orellana | San Francisco, CA

Suzuki-Orellana’s original recipe was inspired by the music he loved growing up. “I remember watching Selena videos and live performances at some of my favorite taquerias by Todos Santos Plaza and Monument Boulevard.” What he saw, felt, smelled and tasted in those taquerias went into his winning cocktail.

Ryan Puckett | Nashville, TN

The philosophy of his bar inspired Ryan Puckett to create a shrub for his winning recipe. He said, “If we can only access something for a brief amount of time, we preserve it. This takes a lot of forms: pickling, tinctures, cordials, or in the case of the cactus, a shrub.” It was an inspired choice, as the green, vegetal flavors of the cactus paired perfectly with Herradura.

Dylan Ammarman | Nashville, TN

Inspired by his experience working in a Mexican restaurant, Ammarman added horchata to his spin on the margarita. “I have learned so much, and have had the chance to experience Latin culture each day,” he said. And it’s certainly paid off now that he’s earned a trip to Mexico.

Stephen Wood | Lancaster, PA

Lancaster County is a startling contrast of old and new, and Wood’s winning recipe celebrates that with a mix of surprising and familiar flavors. “I am beyond excited to expose individuals to the new and unique flavor combinations I found!” The judges in Philadelphia were equally excited about his hometown-inspired cocktail.

Lee Noble | Lancaster, PA

Noble, the other bartender to advance from the Philadelphia regionals, was also inspired by Lancaster County. Although for a different reason. “Southeast Pennsylvania, between Lancaster and Philadelphia, is rich with produce, and famous horse country, so it’s a fitting reminder of Herradura and the ranching passion of the family that created it,” he said.

William Mohring | Indianapolis, IN

The Indiana native paid tribute to his state’s farming history, and even went so far as to infuse Herradura Reposado with Indiana sweet corn kernels when creating his agave syrup. “Coming from a state that produces much of its own fruit and vegetables, I wanted to incorporate that into my cocktail.”

Aaron Pollack | Chicago, IL

Pollack returned to his roots with his Midwest-inspired recipe. “I wanted to bring in my Midwest roots and show my love for working culinary influences into liquid form.” Pollack achieved that by including a roasted corn cob cordial and cilantro-chayote shrub.

Kristine Serrano | Queens, NY

The diversity of Serrano’s New York City neighborhood informed her winning recipe. She said, “Growing up in Queens meant embracing the traditions, food, drinks, and spirits of many different people.” That would explain her surprising and delightful mix of ingredients like Cynar, Sotol por Siempre and, of course, Herradura Silver.

Carlos Ruiz | Morristown, NJ

Ruiz sought to combine his Peruvian heritage with Mexican flavors with his original cocktail. Inspiration turned into reality when he found a way to mix a traditional Peruvian beverage with a staple of Mexican agriculture. “I wanted to incorporate corn in my cocktail to not only showcase Chicha Morada but also highlight how corn can be so versatile.” His cocktail achieved that and more.

Scott Ruggiero | Boulder, CO

The Boulder bartender was inspired by his city’s role as a leader in the farm-to-table movement. “All local ingredients were used to make a twist on a summer gazpacho with farm fresh fruit,” he said, describing his fresh take on Herradura’s Horseshoe Margarita.

TJ Vong | Denver, CO

Sometimes inspiration comes from your surroundings. That’s the case for TJ Vong’s cocktail. He noticed the bright red plants in the garden of the restaurant where he works, and thought to give his original cocktail a floral, herbaceous flavor—and a color that pops.

Will Witherow | Alexandria, VA

“Cumin, citrus and agave remind me of my heritage, which was taught to me by my mother and grandmother.” And that’s why he made those the leading flavors in his winning recipe.

Kenton Gugliuzza | Roanoke, VA

Gugliuzza’s take on the Herradura’s Horseshoe Margarita is the result of his practical inspiration. Orange juice was used to cut down on waste, given how many are used for zest. Then he thought to mix the citrus with Thai basil he had been getting from a local farm. He said, “Since day one I’ve wanted to reduce waste at the bar.” He did, and created a winning cocktail in the process.

Shaun Gordon | Atlanta, GA

Gordon put all of his experience—at the bar and beyond—into his winning cocktail. He said, “I developed a story of my past and something truly dear to my heart and put those experiences into a cocktail.”

Kyle Law | Savannah, GA

“I wanted everything about this drink to be about Savannah and the culture down there,” Law said. That inspiration led him to create a one-of-a-kind cocktail with Savannah red rice horchata, hazelnut liqueur and more.

Tim Weigel | Las Vegas, NV

Zumbaleta, the Mexican tamarind-flavored sweet, was the spark that led Weigel to create his winning cocktail. He turned his love of salty, tangy Mexican treats into a refined, delicious cocktail.

Nick Hipwell | Las Vegas, NV

The other regional winner from Las Vegas was inspired by the local farmer’s market. Hipwell paid special attention to what was coming into season toward the end of summer. He said, “With the taste of juicy pear still in my mouth, I began brainstorming what tequila and spices would go best to make a great margarita.”

Chas Williams | Detroit, MI

Williams was inspired by the challenge of finding the perfect balance between high-end mixology and crowd-pleasing cocktails. “I wanted to take a drink, the Frozen Margarita, and elevate it.” Now that he’s advancing to the finals, it’s safe to say his recipe found that balance.

Rachel Wright | Buffalo, NY

Buffalo has a flavor and personality unlike any other city. Wright shone a light on it with her original cocktail. Blood orange juice, horseradish root and a cheerios tincture combined for a flavor as unique as Buffalo.

Ryan Wolfe | Orlando, FL

Wolfe was excited for the prospect to compete with some of the finest bartenders in the country. It inspired him to create two one-of-a-kind ingredients to elevate his recipe. That was the genesis of his house-made Black Berry Tequila Salt Air and Almond Date Agave.

Evan Sewell | Winter Park, FL

Sewall was inspired by the improvisational tricks he picked up working in restaurants. Her winning cocktail was the result of playing around and experimenting behind the bar. She explained, “Seeing what people enjoy and making things off the cuff is my favorite thing to do.”

Andrew Larson | San Diego, CA

Larson drew inspiration from the places he’s lived. His winning cocktail includes ingredients from the Bay Area, Seattle and San Diego. The flavors combined for a cocktail delicious enough to earn him a trip to an all-new place—Jalisco, Mexico.

Adam George Fournier | Los Angeles, CA

Fournier’s winning cocktail harnessed the passion and skill that goes into creating Tequila Herradura. He was determined to bring that same level of skill and intensity to his own cocktail. That kind of attitude will serve him well when he arrives in Mexico for the finals of the Tequila Herradura Legends competition.