Best Cocktails Hosts Two-Day Competition Supporting the Artisanal Spirits Community

For professionals and enthusiasts — the stage was set to showcase and celebrate mixology and all things cocktails.For two days in mid-September and only a Champagne cork’s pop away from Manhattan — The Penthouse @ Ravel Hotel played host to Best Cocktails’ inaugural cocktails and spirits competition.The event was live streamed to a wide audience; receiving a combined social media presence approaching the million mark.

Best Cocktails founder Jarred Rozansky created the event to showcase the wares and flair of the artisanal spirits community. “We came together to celebrate all things spirits, cocktails, and bartending. We’re pleased to support the niche community of small distillers, on our way to disrupting the cocktail competition scene one bottle at time. Our event is different; it’s powered by the community and boosts the participants’ social media following and engagement.”

Participants and viewers alike were treated to an event that did not disappoint. Cocktail enthusiasts around the globe were able to digitally experience (in real time) an extraordinary showcase of artisanal spirit distillers. The event intentionally placed small bottlers in the spotlight, and its hybrid format enabled Best Cocktails’ large online following to feel a part of the experience. On the opening day, viewers, participants, and judges enjoyed two bartending competitions. They first saw mixologists competing in the Best Cocktails x American Harvest bartending contest. Cocktail creator Nikki Stein emerged the winner out of seven contestants. Later that day, eight seasoned mixologists competed in the Best Cocktails x Chinola contest. Aldo Ortega won with his inventive cocktail, “The Mighty Old Fashion.”* Day two featured the Best Cocktails Spirits Competition. The judges’ palates were treated to unique flavor profiles from a multitude of artisanal spirit brands spanning all the major categories plus liqueurs like Amaro and Butterfly Spirits. While the judges were busy making their tasting notes, viewers were treated to a surprise flair bartending “Show and Tell”, taught by Ebs Bartending Academy. With Best Cocktails, Jarred has garnered a substantial Instagram following (@bestcocktails), but also created an engaged and supportive community of beverage enthusiasts. He plans to bring members of that community together again in the summer of 2024 for the next Best Cocktails spirits and bartending competition.

By Jeff Shoer

History of Gin

Gin, a quintessential spirit with a rich history dating back centuries, has woven its way through the tapestry of human culture, leaving an indelible mark on society. Originating in the Netherlands in the 17th century, gin’s story is one of evolution, innovation, and cultural significance.

The roots of gin can be traced back to the Dutch drink known as genever, a juniper-flavored liquor first distilled by 17th-century Dutch chemist Sylvius de Bouve. Originally touted for its medicinal properties, genever quickly became a popular tipple among Dutch soldiers fighting in the Thirty Years’ War, who dubbed it “Dutch courage.”

However, it was in England where gin truly flourished. In the 18th century, the British government imposed heavy taxes on imported spirits, leading to a surge in domestic distillation. Cheap and readily available, gin became the drink of choice for the masses, particularly in London’s impoverished neighborhoods. This era, known as the “Gin Craze,” saw a proliferation of gin shops and a rise in alcohol-related social issues, prompting the government to pass a series of Gin Acts to regulate its production and consumption.

Despite its tumultuous past, gin endured, undergoing a transformation in the 19th century with the invention of the Coffey still, which allowed for a more refined and consistent distillation process. This paved the way for the creation of London Dry Gin, a style characterized by its clean, juniper-forward flavor profile. Brands like Beefeater and Tanqueray emerged during this period and remain synonymous with quality gin to this day.

20th century brought further innovation to the world of gin, with the introduction of new botanicals and flavor profiles. Craft distilleries began to flourish, producing small-batch gins infused with unique botanical combinations, catering to a more discerning palate.

Today, gin continues to enjoy a renaissance, with a global resurgence in popularity fueled by a renewed interest in craft cocktails and artisanal spirits. From classic G&Ts to innovative cocktails, gin’s versatility and adaptability ensure its enduring appeal in the ever-evolving landscape of the drinks industry.

As we raise our glasses to toast the storied history of gin, let us raise a toast to the distillers, innovators, and enthusiasts who have kept the spirit of gin alive throughout the ages, ensuring its place as a beloved beverage cherished by generations past, present, and future. 

History of Vodka

Vodka, a clear spirit renowned for its versatility and potency, boasts a rich and intriguing history that spans centuries and continents. Its origins are a subject of debate, with both Russia and Poland claiming to be its birthplace. Historians believe vodka’s roots can be traced back to the early Middle Ages, where it was initially used for medicinal purposes and as a solvent.

By the 14th century, vodka had become a staple in Eastern European societies, with distillation techniques evolving and improving over time. Poland is often credited with producing the first known vodka in the late 8th century, while Russia began distilling its own version in the 9th century. These early iterations were crude and varied greatly in potency and quality.

In the 15th century, vodka production became more regulated, with Russia establishing strict standards for its production and consumption. By the 17th century, vodka had become an integral part of Russian culture and was often used in ceremonies and celebrations.

During the 20th century, vodka gained international recognition, especially with the introduction of popular brands like Smirnoff and Absolut. Today, vodka is enjoyed worldwide and is the base for countless cocktails and mixed drinks. Its enduring popularity and rich history make vodka not just a beverage, but a cultural icon.

History of Whiskey

Whiskey, a spirit deeply woven into the tapestry of human history, has a lineage as rich and diverse as the flavors it imparts. Its roots trace back to ancient civilizations, with early records suggesting its presence in Mesopotamia around 2000 BCE. The art of distillation, a crucial step in whiskey production, was likely honed by alchemists in the Middle East during the Islamic Golden Age. 

In medieval Ireland and Scotland, monastic distillers refined the craft, producing what we now recognize as whiskey. The term itself is derived from the Gaelic “uisce beatha,” meaning “water of life.” As Irish and Scottish immigrants settled in America, they brought their distilling traditions, setting the stage for the birth of bourbon in Kentucky. 

Prohibition in the early 20th century posed a significant challenge to the whiskey industry, forcing many distilleries to close. Yet, the spirit endured, experiencing a resurgence in the latter half of the century as craftsmanship and appreciation for diverse whiskey styles blossomed.

Today, whiskey stands as a global symbol of tradition, craftsmanship, and connoisseurship. From Scotch in the misty highlands to the bold flavors of Kentucky bourbon, each sip carries a nuanced history that echoes through the ages, making whiskey not merely a beverage but a testament to the enduring spirit of human ingenuity.