Last year's competition was such a success that once again, the Max Group partners Dennis Max and Fred Stampone are calling all bartenders, drink masters, and mixologists from Stuart to Miami to face off in the six-round contest that runs each Wednesday until concluding in the second week of December. The contest was held last year at sister location Max's Social House in Delray Beach, but the restaurant recently closed.
"Max’s Grille has sat on the 50 yard line at Mizner Park for more than 25 years, which makes it the ideal setting for Bar Brawls," Max says.
Bar Brawls is a spin-off of the Max Group's Chef vs. Chef competition currently taking place at Max's Harvest in Delray Beach. The competition is similar to televised competitions such as the Food Network's Chopped, where contestants use secret ingredients to make a dish judged on factors such as taste and creativity.
In place of food, Bar Brawls takes cocktail crafting to the level behind the bar. Each week, secret ingredients will be chosen and each competitor will have to somehow incorporate them into a classic cocktail recipe. Last year's contest saw off-the-wall ingredients like squid ink.
"Really, it's a chance for them to show their greatest skills in an instantaneous way without having time to plan something," Max says. "You have to be very skillful and creative and know your craft."
According to Max, the contest is a showcase of craft-cocktail mastery that stems from the scene that's emerged across America in the last decade. At its centerpiece is the whimsical, improvisational nature of cocktail-making.
Bartenders are currently being vetted, Stampone says, adding that the contest will involve 18 contestants chosen in draw parties. Some of last year's best competitors will be invited, he adds. These are folks who are at the top of their game in the bartending world.
"We like to invite back the folks who've had some success in the previous year," he says.
Of course, the competition is open to the public. It's an interactive experience, Max says, where customers can sit at the bar and taste the cocktails. Video of the bartenders in action will be broadcast on closed-circuit TV for all to see.
It's not just for your average spectator, Max says, but for those who share a kinship with their brethren inside the tight-knit community of the service industry.
"There's a bond there. It's almost like being an athlete," Max says.
The first round of Bar Brawls starts at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 12 at Max's Grille located at 404 Plaza Real in Mizner Park in Boca Raton. Think you have what it takes to compete? To be considered, email Honey Ackerman at [email protected]. Visit themaxgroup.com.