Gentleman Jack is the perfect base for a Whiskey Sour. That’s why the Gentleman Jack Whiskey Sour Classic was started. It’s a search for the bartender with the most delicious and innovative version of the iconic sour cocktail.
Bartenders from across the United States shared their Whiskey Sours, along with the inspiration behind their unique recipes. Fifty cocktail makers earned spots at regional competitions in Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta and Oklahoma City.
Chicago Winner: Scott Augsburger
Hometown: Covington, Kentucky
Whiskey Sour: The Juliet
Scott Augsburger made the trip from Kentucky to Chicago to compete in the regional finals. His take on the Whiskey Sour, called The Juliet, showed off his Southern background. More specific, it was inspired by Augsburger’s love of pecan pie.
Augsburger brought the flavor of the classic Southern dessert to a Whiskey Sour by mixing in some pecan-maple syrup. He doubled down on the Southern influence by adding a splash of peach liqueur. The unconventional choice paid off, with his recipe earning him a trip to the finals.
"I'm so excited to go back to Lynchburg and compete in the finals,” Augsburger said. “The Juliet was inspired by Southern hospitality and I'm excited to bring it back to Tennessee!"
Washington, DC Winner: Peter Roccaforte
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Whiskey Sour: Happy Days Are Here Again
Peter Roccaforte took a trip down I-95 to compete at the regional finals in Washington, DC, where he faced off against nine top-tier bartenders from the East Coast. The New York bartender separated himself by incorporating tiki elements in his classically constructed Whiskey Sour.
“Gentleman Jack offers itself very well to tiki builds, thanks to all the banana, vanilla, licorice and caramel in the profile,” Roccaforte explained. “The smooth sweetness can play similar to a well-aged rum.”
That’s the thinking that went into his recipe, Happy Days Are Here Again. Roccaforte added fresh grapefruit juice, banana liqueur and cinnamon syrup to the Whiskey Sour template, which helped the subtler notes of Gentleman Jack pop.
Oklahoma City Winner: Dominic Petrucci
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Whiskey Sour: Monarch Millionaire
Dominic Petrucci immediately caught the attention of the judges with his polished performance and presentation. It was all the more impressive, given the complexity of his twist on the Whiskey Sour, the Monarch Millionaire.
The Kansas City bartender drew inspiration from classics of the pre-Prohibition era, and showed off his artistry by garnishing the drink with an illustration of Rich Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly mascot. Another playful flourish was using scratch-off lottery tickets as coasters.
But Petrucci didn’t earn a trip to the Gentleman Jack Whiskey Sour Classic finals simply because of a smooth performance and quirky presentation. It was because he backed it up with the most delicious twist on the Whiskey Sour, beating out nine highly qualified bartenders in his region.
“Personally, I’ve never lost a game of Monopoly and I haven’t lost with this cocktail,” Petrucci said. It’s easy to see why the recipe is a winner, considering how he used homemade grenadine, gold-washed Grand Marnier and Tangerine Agrumato to transform the typical Whiskey Sour into something distinctly mouthwatering.
Los Angeles Winner: Topher Hartfield
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Whiskey Sour: Rickhouse Tropic
The Western regional took place in Los Angeles, so Topher Hartfield’s tropical and upscale spin on the Whiskey Sour was right at home. Presenting his cocktail, the Rickhouse Tropic, Hartifield illuminated how each ingredient was vital to the recipe.
“I highlighted Gentleman Jack’s nuttiness with a bit of orgeat, hints of anise and liquorice with passionfruit and pineapple, and the spice notes with a nice amaro.”
Once the judges tasted the Rickhouse Tropic, it became clear that the Denver bartender wasn’t overselling his cocktail. Its flavor exceeded the lofty expectations that his captivating performance created.
Hartfield was shocked when he heard his name announced as the winner. It’s safe to say that he was the only one at the Los Angeles regional surprised to see him book his ticket to Tennessee for the finals.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
Atlanta Winner: Will Cummings
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
Whiskey Sour: The Pitchford Sour
The Atlanta regional was hotly contested, with Will Cummings emerging as the winner, thanks to his family-inspired spin on the Whiskey Sour.
Cummings’ Pitchford Sour includes two homemade ingredients, both influenced by food he enjoys while living in the South. One is candied pecan syrup and the other is a fresh cherry reduction mixed with sweet vermouth. But you don’t need to share the Kentucky bartender’s background to appreciate what they add to a Whiskey Sour.
“Even if you've never cracked pecan shells or spit cherry pits in the southern heat, this drink will make you grateful that there are still simple pleasures to enjoy,” Cummings said.
The judges certainly found a lot to enjoy in the cocktail, noting how the homemade ingredients brought out the depth and complexity of Gentleman Jack. Only time will tell if The Pitchford Sour can win Cummings a trip to Bar Convent Berlin. It sure was more than enough to advance him to the Tennessee finals.