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Tales of the Cocktail 2012: Los Angeles Toasts The Varnish at the Spirited Awards

On Saturday of the 10th Annual Tales of the Cocktail, two events loomed large on the itinerary: Pig & Punch and the 2012 Spirited Awards. The former was an epic afternoon of food, drink and good times for a great cause; the latter a celebration that honored eighteen of the world’s top bartenders, bars, brand ambassadors, spirits, authors and more.

Pig & Punch

The Bon Vivants (Scott Baird, Josh Harris, Alex Straus) took over Washington Square Park for the 3rd Annual Pig & Punch, a free event that has grown exponentially each year. This year’s edition featured nine pigs, six trash cans of punch, lawn games, music and a few surprises. The Bon Vivants asked guests to “bring your empty belly, your smiles, and 30 bucks for your t-shirt for charity.” All funds raised through sales of the Pig & Punch shirt were donated to the New Orleans KIPP Charter Schools, where a group of bartenders volunteered their time earlier in the week.

Todd Richman - Pig & Punch

Todd Richman on chicken duty.

Trash Can Punch - Pig & Punch

Scoundrels & Aristo-Cats: Don Q Añejo, The King's Ginger, Barenjager, Pamplemousse Rose Liqueur, grapefruit juice, lime juice, Bourbon Rooibos Tea, cardamom.

Adrian Biggs - Pig & Punch

Adrian Biggs of Pour Vous puts the finishing touches on a guest's plate.

Lunch plate - Pig & Punch

The inaugural Pig & Punch had 11 volunteers and raised over $1600 for the charity. Last year, there were 42 volunteers and over $6000 was donated. Harris later confirmed the record-breaking numbers for this year’s Pig & Punch: 68 volunteers at the school, 1200 guests based on food depletions, and nearly $15,000 raised for donation. Pig & Punch was once again one of the highlights of Tales, here’s to raising even more funds next year!

For more photos of Pig & Punch, please visit the Thirsty in LA Facebook page.


The Varnish - 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards

Front row, L to R: Daniel Eun, Chris Bostick, Devon Tarby. Standing, L to R: Ricki Kline, Cedd Moses, Eric Alperin, Chris Owens. | Photo by Pernod-Ricard

The 10th Anniversary Tales of the Cocktail culminated with the 2012 Spirited Awards, an awards ceremony hosted by the dynamic duo of Simon Ford and Zane Lamprey that recognized the best in the world in the cocktails and spirits industry. For the LA contingent, the highlight of the night was The Varnish winning at last for Best American Cocktail Bar, after being nominated in 2010 and 2011. The award recognizes a bar’s influence on U.S. cocktail trends, with judges taking menu, bar teams, atmosphere and cocktail quality into consideration.

Eric Alperin - 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards

Eric Alperin accepts The Varnish's Spirited Award for Best American Cocktail Bar, with Cedd Moses, Devon Tarby and Chris Owens. | Photo by Pernod-Ricard

Co-owner Eric Alperin (a finalist for American Bartender of the Year) did a couple of cartwheels on stage, which he later said he did to clear his head before addressing the audience. Both Alperin and 213 Nightlife Proprietor Cedd Moses said the award wasn’t just for The Varnish, it was for all of Los Angeles. For Moses, who said people literally laughed in his face at his first Tales when he said that he was going to open bars and establish a Los Angeles cocktail culture, the vindication was a long time coming and particularly sweet. LA supporters could be seen throughout the ballroom, standing on chairs and cheering every word.

Steve Livigni & Pablo Moix - 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards

"Looking good Billy Ray!" Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix of Pour Vous et al. | Photo by Pernod-Ricard

Giovanni Martinez - 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards

Giovanni Martinez of Sadie serves the Dunmore Sour during the pre-awards reception: Chivas 18-Year, fresh lemon juice, pineapple syrup, egg white.

Cari Hah & Jaymee Mandeville - 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards

First-year Cocktail Apprentices Cari Hah and Jaymee Mandeville. (L to R)

The Varnish’s award capped a strong showing for Los Angeles throughout this year’s Tales, beginning with the wildly successful Ode to the Bowl that The Spare Room hosted earlier in the week. Throughout a rollercoaster week of emotional and physical highs and lows, LA bartenders represented at events, seminars, Spirited Dinners and overall support for their peers. Cari Hah (Neat) and Jaymee Mandeville (Drago Centro) worked behind the scenes as first-year Cocktail Apprentices, and Mandeville received an additional recognition at the Spirited Awards as one of the country’s 10 Up & Coming Mixologists. Daniel Eun, who was onstage with The Varnish crew, also has recipes featured throughout the PDT Cocktail Book, including the very first one in this year’s winner for Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book.

Ago Perrone - 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards

Head mixologist Agostino "Ago" Perrone accepts The Connaught's Spirited Award for World's Best Cocktail Bar.

With the 2012 Olympics getting underway in London the same weekend as the Spirited Awards, it was fitting that London swept the World’s Best categories, including The Connaught Bar for World’s Best Cocktail Bar and the Artesian Bar at The Langham for World’s Best Hotel Bar. Artesian bartender Alex Kratena was named International Bartender of the Year.

After the jump, it’s off to Juniperlooza for the Spirited Awards afterparty, and then a special gathering to celebrate Los Angeles.

Following is the complete list of 2012 Spirited Awards finalists, with winners listed in bold.

American Bartender of the Year

  • Eric Alperin
  • Charles Joly
  • Jeffrey Morganthaler
  • Joaquin Simo

Best American Brand Ambassador

  • Erick Castro
  • Elayne Duke
  • Jamie Gordon
  • Jim Ryan

Best American Cocktail Bar

Best Bar Mentor

  • Bridget Albert
  • Wayne Collins
  • Francesco Lafranconi
  • Steve Olson

Best High Volume Cocktail Bar

Best Cocktail Writing – Author

  • Gary Regan
  • Robert Simonson
  • Dave Wondrich
  • Naren Young

Best Cocktail Writing – Non Book

Best International Brand Ambassador

  • Jacob Briars
  • Ian Burrell
  • Claire Smith
  • Angus Winchester

Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book

  • The American Cocktail by the Editors of Imbibe
  • Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-all
  • Gaz Regan’s Annual Manual for Bartenders 2011
  • PDT Cocktail Book

Best New Product

  • Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum
  • Cognac Pierre Ferrand 1840 Formula
  • Lillet Rose
  • Perlini System

Best Restaurant Bar

International Bartender of the Year

  • Zdenek Kastanek
  • Alex Kratena
  • Sam Ross
  • Dushan Zaric

World’s Best Cocktail Bar

World’s Best Cocktail Menu

  • Black Pearl – Melbourne, Australia
  • Callooh Callay – London, United Kingdom
  • Clover Club – Brooklyn, New York
  • Mayahuel – Manhattan, New York

World’s Best Drinks Selection

World’s Best Hotel Bar

World’s Best New Cocktail Bar

  • Aviary – Chicago, Illinois
  • Candelaria – Paris, France
  • Canon – Seattle, Washington
  • The Zetter Townhouse – London, United Kingdom

John Lermayer Good Behavior Award: The Bon Vivants

Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award: Gary Regan

For more photos of the Spirited Awards, please visit the Thirsty in LA Facebook page.


Jim Meehan - Clover Shrub at Juniperlooza

Jim Meehan serves the superb Clover Shrub: Beefeater 24, lemon juice, Pok Pok Drinking Vinegar, egg white.

Following the Spirited Awards was Juniperlooza, a “festival of gin, music and dance.” Simon Ford and Audrey Saunders started the event six years ago as the Bartenders Breakfast, an homage to the bartender way of life. Rebooted as Juniperlooza, the “official unofficial wrap party” for Tales took place at the Sugar Mill, featuring a host of bartenders, punch bowls, food trucks and the music of Aloe Blacc, The Crooners and DJ Nick van Tiel.

Daniel Eun - Juniperlooza

Daniel Eun models the latest in Spirited Awards fashion.

The Varnish - Best American Cocktail Bar

As members of Team Varnish began to arrive from the Spirited Awards, the LA lovefest began in earnest. The community vibe continued to build to a crescendo as Moses sent out word that an LA celebration was happening later that night in the upstairs room at One Eyed Jacks.

Sam Ross, Eric Alperin, Dave Kaplan - 2012 Tales of the Cocktail

L to R: Sam Ross, Eric Alperin and Dave Kaplan.

Inside the packed, sweaty room, dozens of LA bartenders, friends and family toasted to The Varnish’s well-deserved win. Alperin, Moses and former GM Chris Bostick took turns speaking, with hearty toasts all around in between. It was a great privilege to be there; I was so glad to share the experience with blogger buddies Caroline on Crack, e*star LA and many more friends from throughout the city and beyond. You know you’re at a special gathering when Cedd Moses and Dave Kaplan (Proprietors LLC) are behind the bar slinging bottles of Miller High Life and shots of Jameson (“It’s mixology.”).

Ron Zacapa XO Centenario Solera Gran Reserva Especial

Say hello to my little friend.

I somehow became custodian of a bottle of Ron Zacapa XO Centenario Solera Gran Reserva Especial, as Caroline notes in her Tales cocktail roundup. And my mission was to make sure any newcomers got a sip from the bottle. As one person exclaimed, “It’s like making out with every LA bartender!!!”

We may have been in New Orleans, but it sure felt like home. What better way to cap off an amazing week at Tales of the Cocktail than being surrounded by some of the best bartenders in the country, raising a glass to a breakthrough award for all of Los Angeles, with the promise of more to come.

For more photos, please visit the Thirsty in LA Facebook page.

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