After regional competitions and a trip to the Woodford Reserve Distillery, it was finally time to choose a new Master of the Manhattan. The six finalists convened at Catch in Manhattan—where else?—for the final stage of the competition.
The finalists included Austin Carson, Andrew Olsen, Kimber Weissert, Ryan Puckett, Jonathan Howard and Jason Seele. Coming from all across the country, each one of these talented bartenders brought their A-game to the competition. The finalists arrived early to acquaint themselves with the venue, and prepare for the evening of competition. Soon after, judges Julie Reiner, Jacques Bezuidenhout and Dave Wondrich, along with Chris Morris, the Master Distiller for Woodford Reserve, visited with the bartenders to sample their cocktails. Each finalist made a classic Manhattan with Woodford Reserve Rye and an original cocktail with Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.
The judges tried each cocktail, assigning a grade as they went, and were immediately impressed by the high level of competition. When the time came to deliberate, it was almost impossible to choose only one winner.
While the judges agonized over their decision, Catch opened its doors to the public. More than 300 guests came to try what the bartenders were pouring. Guests mingled and flowed between the 3rd floor and rooftop, trying a variety of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. They also had access to a Manhattan Lounge where some of the earliest documented Manhattan recipes were brought to life and served by Leo DeGroff. If that didn’t interest the attendees, chilled sidecars of the Manhattans were also being made with hand-chipped ice.
Eventually, the judges came to a decision. Emcee Tad Carducci introduced each bartender, and the judges shared a few words on the skill of the bartenders and meaning of the competition. When the time came to announce the winner, Jonathan Howard’s name was called. The Nashville bartender stood out with his Classic Manhattan, and floored the judges with his innovative original recipe, the Gentleman’s Carry-On. Next, he’ll fly to San Francisco for a hosted trip and video shoot for Liquor.com.