Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cosmos bartender among country's best

The gin was flowing last night at Loft 1523 as Bombay Sapphire and GQ Magazine stopped in Charlotte on their search to find the country's Most Inspired Bartender.

Charlotte is one of 40 cities on the search, and 11 handpicked bartenders from local watering holes competed in last night's most-inspired martini contest.

I had the lucky job of judging, along with Bombay Sapphire's global brand ambassador Merlin Griffiths (who proved to be an encyclopedia of information about the history of gin, the latest trends in cocktails and his favorite places to party), Cantina 1511's mixologist Nicole Sharpe and fellow nightlife columnist Brittney Cason from Creative Loafing.

One thing that set this bartending competition apart from others I've judged: a trip to Las Vegas and a mention in GQ was on the line. 

The guys (sadly, no female bartenders) really brought out all the tricks including edible flowers, Brazilian sugar cane sticks, rose water, fried basil, elderberry, crystallized ginger and fresh kiwis. Some of the bartenders had been preparing ingredients as early as two weeks before the competition.

Contestants David Eddings (from left), Stefan Huebner, Brandon Rood, Chris Peavy and Jason Astephen

Considering that my only previous experience with gin was a requisite gin and tonic here and there, tasting last night's concoctions was like an explosion of flavors. Only 11 points separated first and last place, giving you an idea of how hard the guys worked.

But Stefan Huebner's "The Queen Charlotte" was so tasty that it prompted an expletive from Griffiths ("That was &*%$ing fantastic") and equally effusive praise from the rest of the judges. 

Merlin Griffiths (from left), Nicole Sharpe, Me, Stefan Huebner and Brittney Cason

His winning cocktail consisted of Bombay Sapphire, Campari, Prosecco, peach bitters, simple syrup, orange juice and a candied sugar twist for garnish. He called it a new twist on a classic '40s cocktail called the French 75.

Huebner's winning cocktail: The Queen Charlotte

Huebner will go on to compete against his fellow Top 40 in Las Vegas over Labor Day weekend and will be featured in the "Man of the Year" issue of GQ magazine, on newsstands in December.

His first thought when he won? "There goes all my gambling money."

He praised his competitors Wednesday as he nursed his celebratory hangover: "I was really excited to win because everybody brought it last night. Everybody's cocktails looked great."

You can find Huebner and his yummy cocktails (his cantaloupe martini won at Bar Wars 2008) at the new Cosmos in Ballantyne.

Congrats, and good luck in Vegas!


Anonymous said...

Hands down one of the best bartenders in the city!

The often emulated but never equaled half price martini night on Wednesdays at Cosmos has been a Queen City staple for years!

Congrats Stefan!

Anonymous said...

Two ways to know a good bartender:

1) Order a Cuba Libre. If there is even a split second hesitation by the barkeep go on to the next guy/gal.

2) Order a daiquiri. If they mention anything about "frozen" or "strawberries," leave them to mix "drinks" for the college kiddies and find someone else.

I want my daiquiri the way it was meant to be -- the way Kennedy and Hemingway enjoyed them before they were perverted by low brow vacation bars and spring breakers who don't know how to enjoy good alcohol.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7.15.09 10:23:
You are absolutely annoying

Anonymous said...

ugh what a pretentious post. shut up.

free2 said...

Sarah can I go with you on your next assignment?

Anonymous said...

How to know the customer standing in front of you is a complete douche (from 4 years bartending experience):
1) They order a Cuba Libre.
2) They order a "daiquiri" and expect to get a "lime daiquiri" and not strawberry.
3) They compare their drinking style to Kennedy and Hemingway.

Anonymous said...

Stefan is absolutely one of the best bartenders I've ever encountered. He's personable and he can make one hell of a drink. We use to visit him every Tuesday at Cosmos uptown for $3 vodka drink and this dude can make anything. I need to go visit him at the new Cosmos. Congrats Stefan.

Anonymous said...

I think Russ from Loft shouldve won!! He makes the best drinks!!

Anonymous said...

I also like to enjoy my daiquiri the way Kennedy and Hemingway did, with lead!!

Anonymous said...

he makes great drinks and makes them fast go see him one of the best in the city.I think he is at the new Cosmos Cafe in ballentyne.

Anonymous said...

who cares!

Anonymous said...

off to vegas try to make Charlotte proud