The day before the Gentleman Jack Whiskey Sour Classic finals, the five bartenders still remaining in the competition were in for a serious treat. Hundreds of pros had submitted their spin on the Whiskey Sour, and only 50 had advanced to the regional finals, so the five finalists (Scott Augsburger, Will Cummings, Topher Hartfield, Dominic Petrucci and Peter Roccaforte) definitely earned the special treatment.
The finalists were taken on an exclusive tour of the Jack Daniel’s distillery, guided by none other than assistant master distiller Chris Fletcher. Born in Lynchburg and the grandson of a distiller, Fletcher earned a degree in chemistry and then returned to Tennessee and used it the best way he knew how.
Fletcher started working for Jack Daniel’s in 2001 as atour guide. That’s no longer his responsibility as the assistant master distiller, but after making an exception to walk the finalists through the history and production of Jack Daniel’s, it was clear he hadn’t lost a step.
“There was not one question that Chris wasn’t willing to answer,” says finalist Scott Augsburger. “From the mash bill to the distilling process, everything was shown in depth. Jack Daniel’s is authentic. Nothing is hidden, and every bit of the process is done at the distillery.”
In case that wasn’t enough to get everyone excited for the finals, the group then went bowling with the judges, with two-time James Beard award winner and bartending legend Dale DeGroff giving them tips on proper technique. The day also had them all playing Jack Daniel’s trivia and listening to DeGroff share anecdotes about Frank Sinatra and Ol’ Blue Eyes’ love of the iconic whiskey.
Everyone was having a great time, but the following day, when it was time to compete for a free trip to Bar Convent Berlin, the bartenders were strictly business.
The task at hand? Presenting their unique take on the Whiskey Sour that made excellent use of Gentleman Jack, featuring a balanced flavor and striking presentation that paid homage to the classic recipe.
This competition is all about giving bartenders a chance to do something new within the classic, fundamental category of sour cocktails. No one did this better than Scott Augsburger of Covington, Ky., who was crowned the winner of the 2018 Gentleman Jack Whiskey Sour Classic.
Augsburger took a moment to reflect following his huge win. “My bartending experience has been plagued with surgeries and setbacks,” he says. “But time has taught me that no matter how good your cocktails may be, hospitality matters most.”
Hospitality might be the most important thing, but Augsburger really did have an incredible and mouthwatering spin on the Whiskey Sour. His recipe, the Juliet, had the tartness you expect from a sour but elevated with Southern coastal flavors like pecan and peach. It worked as a sour but still showed off Augsburger’s personality. In other words, it was exactly what the judges were looking for.
“Show everyone who you are through your cocktails and presentation,” says Augsburger. “Let the judges know you are letting them into your bar and giving them the best form of hospitality and cocktails they could ever want. Represent the same transparency and authenticity that Jack Daniel’s and everyone at the distillery proudly demonstrates.”