The Road to the Hacienda Stretched Across the Country
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Posted on Mar 27, 2016
Sixteen bartenders arrived in Mexico for The Road to the Hacienda Finale, sponsored by Tequila Herradura. This impressive group shared a deep appreciation of tequila and the skills to elevate the spirit. But that’s about all they had in common. They all work in different kinds of bars, have distinct styles and come from all over the country.
With the competition wrapping up, it’s the perfect time to look back at how these finalists got to Mexico. Bartenders in every corner of the country submitted tequila cocktail recipes. The best were invited to regional events to make their drinks, along with their own take on the classic Horseshoe Margarita, for professional judges.
Things got started in Denver on January 24, where Nic Lazzareschi and Les Baker quickly stood out with their original recipes. Lazzareschi explained that his tequila cocktail was inspired by the mystery of the mountains—fitting for a regional event set in the Mile High City. The judges felt Baker captured the essence of agave with his cocktail, and as a result, the two of them became the first to book their tickets to Mexico.
Soon after, 10 elite bartenders gathered in Las Vegas to compete for the chance to join them. Cody Fredrickson’s Homestead Margarita, which celebrated the bitterness of coffee and grapefruit, caught the attention of the judges. And Gary Shneck joined him as the other regional winner, based on the strength of his Valley of Fire. He drew inspiration from hiking trips and memorable experiences in the desert. It paid off.
Robert Mercier and Leo Holtzman emerged from an exciting and competitive Miami regional. “I have never entered a competition before, so I was beside myself when I made it,” said Mercier. You wouldn’t know it was his first competition given the strength of his locally inspired Nacimiento del Legado Margarita. The Gardener’s Margarita, crafted by Holtzman, also used local ingredients to give his cocktail an innovative twist.
A week later and a little north, the Atlanta regional produced two incredible finalists: Nicolas Vaughn and Nic Wallace. Vaughn’s original cocktail, the Georgia en Mi Mente, is a subtle marriage of the history of Atlanta and Herradura, combining Georgia farm-sourced peaches with the toasted oak and vanilla of añejo tequila. Wallace delighted the judges with Southern simplicity, using fresh ingredients for a stunning result in his cocktail, the Farrier’s Daughter.
Jorge Vargas-Baquedano and Jacopo Rosito will represent San Francisco in the finale. Vargas-Baquedano paid tribute to the men and women who harvest local crops in the area, with his Suerte en el Campo drawing inspiration from local farmers’ markets. Rosito thought back on his last trip to Mexico when making El Loco. And his creation was good enough to win him another trip.
Next up was Chicago, where Egor Polonskiy and Jarmel Doss rose to the occasion and did Chicago proud with their locally inspired recipes. Polonskiy’s Chicago Fire was, not surprisingly, smoky in the most subtle and delicious way. The judges fell for Jarmel Doss’ Little Village because of its bold flavor and the chile ice cube it included.
The regional competitions came to a close on February 27 in New York and Los Angeles. Ten bartenders faced off in New York, but the Lady in Green, crafted by Alex Gabriel Mendoza, became a clear favorite with its delicious nod to the city’s affinity for matcha ice cream. Veronica Correa also earned a spot in the finale, thanks to her bright and crisp Lucky Apple.
In Los Angeles, one of the winning cocktails was inspired by Hawaii. Colin Coleman used flavors from his home state, like pineapple and coconut, in his incredible original recipe, the Aloha from Jalisco. BC Hoffman claimed the final spot in the finale by looking to his backyard. His Hollywood Boulevard is the perfect mix of Southern California flavors and ingredients, such as pink peppercorn, avocado and strawberry.
All of those amazing cocktails were created just to get to the hacienda. Imagine what was actually produced there. Stay tuned to see who left the hacienda a champion.
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