On Wednesday, barmen from New York's top gay watering holes descended upon Hell's Kitchen's Hardware to battle it out for their spot in the final round of Stoli's national LGBT bartending competition.
Amidst the club remixes and waiters darting through the crowd, resident drag queen Shequida emceed the night's controlled chaos as a panel of judges evaluated each concoction.
"Our judging is based on four main components," says judge Patrik Gallineaux, Stoli's National LGBT Ambassador. "Authenticity, taste, aroma, and presentation."
Gallineaux's been judging events like Wednesday's in gay bars across the country for over a month now. 12 competitors in total will move on to the finals in Key West. The grand prize is a "Dream Library" of 50 bartending bibles, and the title of Stoli Original Key West Cocktail Champion 2014.
The competition was tight that night. "I honestly had no idea which bartender was going to win tonight," admits Gallineaux. "The New York event at Hardware was one of only two events out of nine, so far, in which I had no idea who the front runner was. Any competitor tonight would have done New York City proud at the finale in Key West."
In the end, Frank Lombardi, repping East Village staple The Phoenix, came out on top with his Bollywood Basil Julip, a drink born partially out of necessity. "It was summer and I just thought I'd use whatever was fresh," says Lombardi. "Right now limes aren't doing so well, so I thought I'd use a lemon and basil's growing really well right now. I traveled to India and brought some chili powder back with me and I love ginger. I thought I'd fuse it all together and make a sweet and sour, refreshing drink."
Bollywood Basil Julip:
1.5 oz Stolichnaya vodka
3/4 of a lemon, muddled with a sprig of basil.
3/4 oz. ginger simple syrup
1 tsp. chili powder
1. tbsp. of Kosher Salt.
Shake and strain into a glass rimmed with chili salt. Top with a dash of lavender bitters, club soda, and a baked basil leaf.
The finale of the Stoli Original Key West Cocktail Classic will take place on May 31 at Key West's Bourbon St. Pub. Check the itinerary to see if there's going to be a heat at your local hangout.
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