Judge #1: Jacques Bezuidenhout
Why he’s judging: Bezuidenhout currently works with Liquid Productions on branded event production around the country, as well as spending time on his spirit and cocktail consulting company. He has served as the bar, cocktail and spirit specialist for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and launched Forgery in May 2015 and Wildhawk in April 2016. These San Francisco bars were each named one of the Top 10 New Bars in the U.S. by Tales of the Cocktail.
How to impress him: “Show the judges what makes you and your bar special,” says Bezuidenhout. “Convey that passion and energy in your presentation and through your cocktail. The competition challenges you to stay within the boundaries of the classic recipe while giving your own twist on the Manhattan. So really focus on the small details.
What not to do: “A common mistake is not giving the choice of vermouth proper consideration,” he says. “Test different styles of vermouth in your Manhattan to see what you think pairs best with Woodford Reserve.”
Who is he to judge?: Joly has opened and overseen seven venues in three different states. He has served as beverage director at The Aviary in Chicago and chief mixologist and founder of The Drawing Room. He was named American Bartender of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail in 2013 and won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program at The Aviary in the same year. Joly has also earned James Beard nominations from 2015 through 2018 for Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional.
Crafting the perfect Manhattan: “There are only three ingredients, so there's nothing to hide behind,” says Joly. “Your choice of vermouth, bitters, glassware, temperature, texture and presentation and your bar-side manner all come into play.”
A common mistake: “One of the biggest mistakes I've seen is letting the vermouth overshadow the bourbon,” he says. “You need to understand the profile of Woodford Reserve and allow it to shine. The other ingredients should be playing supporting, albeit important, roles.”