After an extensive search across the United States that began with more than 600 entries, the 2016 Heaven Hill Bartender of the Year has been crowned. The 32 semifinalists faced off in New Orleans, San Francisco, New York and Chicago to be narrowed down to just eight finalists.
The finalists were flown to compete at the St. Regis Bahia Resort in Puerto Rico, in pursuit of the illustrious title and $15,000 grand prize. Heaven Hill Brands and Liquor.com named Abigail Gullo of Compere Lapin the 2016 Bartender of the Year after three rounds of fierce competition at the beachside bar. Hailing from New Orleans, the location of the first regional semifinal, Gullo impressed at each stage of the competition to bring the title full circle back to New Orleans.
In the first stage of the finals, contestants were challenged to find inspiration locally, using ingredients native to Puerto Rico to create an original cocktail for the Market Challenge. Four competitors moved on to the next round to have their speed tested, as they mixed and presented as many cocktails as possible from a given list in the time provided. After the In the Weeds Challenge, the final competitors left standing were Gullo and Brian Means, of San Francisco’s Dirty Habit.
The competition’s final stage was the Master Class. Gullo and Means each taught a 15-minute bartending class, presented as though they were speaking to the next generation of bartenders. While both were informative and inspiring, Gullo was ultimately crowned the 2016 Bartender of the Year for her ability to demonstrate the full range of skills essential for a world-class bartender.
“Congratulations to Abigail and to each of the contestants for displaying exemplary skill and creativity,” said Kate Latts, the vice president of marketing for Heaven Hill Brands. “We look forward to continuing this competition in the future with our diverse portfolio of spirits leading the way for innovation in bartending.”
Next, Gullo will fly to San Francisco to film three how-to videos for Liquor.com.