This past Monday Appleton Estate held their third annual Bartender Challenge at Sons of Essex pitting six contestants against each other in a test of not only their cocktail-making skills, but their talent — as in their ability to perform and enthrall a captive audience — behind the bar. Dubbed “Remixology,” this competition required each bartender to create an Appleton Estate Cocktail, select an inspirational song to go with it, and put the two together. For each round, contestants made their drinks for judges Julie Reiner, Andy Seymour, Dominic Venegas, and emcee Willy Shine while they performed along to their chosen inspirational songs.
The more creative contestants hammed up their performances, wearing costumes and bringing in backup dancers, and in the end Lubens Besse from Mister H and Imperial No 9 won the judges over with his performance to Bob Marley’s “Exodus” while he created his “Free Jamaica” cocktail, made with Appleton Estate Reserve, lime juice, velvet falernum and, believe it or not, a touch of Jamaican black bean soup.
Lindsay Matteson from Flatiron Lounge came in second (with an inspired performance of “Ice, Ice, Baby,”); the other contestants were Bratislav Glisic from Employees Only, Joe Donohue from Kolo Klub and Christopher James from Teak on the Hudson. Besse will go on to compete in the finals on September 10th against winners from San Francisco, Boston and Miami.