Does your favorite South Florida mixologist have what it takes to be named the "best" bartender in South Florida? You may find out soon during the Max Group's tête-à-tête-style showdown which starts later this month featuring some of the area's most talented bar chefs.
Delray Beach's Max’s Social House has unveiled the names of 24 competing bartenders who will be vying for the title of best drink maker in the upcoming bracket-style "Bar Brawls" competition. The event will launch after the completion of the Max Group's successful and popular Chef vs. Chef competition, a throw-down-style chef competition that ends September 23.
"We've had a lot of fun — and a great turnout — for each of our Chef vs. Chef series competitions, so it got us thinking about how we could keep the momentum going. I don't think I’ve ever seen a bracket-style bartender competition, as bartender contests are typically one-time tournaments," said Max's Social House general manager Bob Higgenbotham. "We've gathered 24 of the best bartenders from the area, and are looking forward to a great new series."
The 11-week single elimination competition features some of the area's best bartenders, hand-picked by Max Group staff from Stuart to Fort Lauderdale. The competition — sponsored by Deerfield Beach-based Republic National Distributing Co. — will pit bartenders against one another as they prepare a specialty drink using three mystery ingredients.
During the first round of the competition three bartenders will compete at one time. Each match starts with the competitors being given a spirit and a short amount of time to create one specific classic cocktail. The judges will then strain — or eliminate — one bartender. During the second part of the match, the remaining two bartenders will be given two mystery ingredients (one spirit and one fruit, vegetable, ice cream, or other item), and competitors will have 30 minutes to use the mystery ingredients and the spirit from the classic cocktail earlier in the evening to create a unique cocktail.
Contestants will have access to a smoker, the kitchen, and the bar pantry. A bartender from Max’s Social House will serve as an assistant, and the competition will become progressively more difficult throughout the evening. Each week's winning cocktail will be featured on Max’s Social House menu until the next Bar Brawls night. As for the final winner: the grand prize will be an all- expenses paid trip to the New Orleans cocktail event, Tales of the Cocktail 2016, considered the world's premier cocktail festival highlighting what's "now, next, and new in the spirits industry."
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Higgenbotham says patrons looking to get a glimpse of the action can still reserve tables both inside and outside. Full table service will be available during the event until 11 p.m., after which a late night street food will be available from 11 p.m. until closing. The outdoor bar will be open during the competition and afterwards.
The list of brawling bartenders includes: Alain Camacho of The Office; Brett Hart of Hullabaloo; Brett Robertson of Kapow!; David Bouchard of The Cooper; James Hartmann from Ian’s Tropical Grille; Cody Parker of El Camino; Jess Hart of El Camino; Jessie Bell from 3rd & 3rd; John Fitzpatrick of 32 East; Julie Antoine of Racks Fish House and Oyster Bar; Justin Himmelbaum of Mucho Gusto Delray; Kareem Lakchira from the The Rusty Hook Tavern; Kelly Lozina from 3rd & 3rd; Marc Volpicelli of Sweetwater Bar & Grill; Matthew Swig of Sundy House; Lee Klein of Burt & Max’s; Bobby Brown of Craft Cartel; Randy Rapposelli of Brule Bistro; Taffy Spiller of Farmers Table; Rob Cox of 13 American Table; Tiffini Grant of Apeiro; Todd McCready from Nitrogen; Scott Dauss of Free House American; and Yeiry Medero of Oceans 234.
Bar Brawls will kick off at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 30, and will continue each Wednesday through the finals on December 16 at Max’s Social House located at 116 NE 6th Avenue, Delray Beach. Admission to the competition is $10 per person, and all proceeds will benefit the Richard David Kaan Melanoma Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to educating the public on skin cancer and melanoma.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.