Debbi Peek Wins USBG Piña Colada Competition at 2011 Tales of the Cocktail

Piña Colada

When you’re trying to deal with the withering summer heat of New Orleans, relief doesn’t get much better than an ice cold drink like the Piña Colada. At last month’s Tales of the Cocktail, seventeen bartenders from around the country presented their modern interpretations of the tropical classic at the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) Piña Colada Competition. The sold out event took place at The Foundry, was hosted by Dan Dunn (The Imbiber) and sponsored by Bacardí and In the Mix Magazine.

Bartenders and their entries were judged according to the following criteria: technical skills and presentation; appearance; aroma; balance of flavors; taste; creativity; and the overall appeal of character. All participants were required to use rum as the base spirit and Bacardí Superior Rum was “preferred.”

Technical judges included USBG National President David Nepove, USBG National Past President Livio Lauro, and Ronaldo Colli, who was awarded Best Technical Performance at the 2009 USBG National Cocktail Contest. Tasting judges included USBG Vice President Aaron Gregory Smith, Bacardí Global Brand Ambassador David Cordoba, and Mike Maven, the Managing Editor of In the Mix. A preliminary group of judges, consisting of members from USBG National and Tales of the Cocktail, voted on the best qualifying round recipes for each chapter.

Finalists represented their respective USBG chapters from the following cities and regions: Austin; Chicago; Cincinnati; Connecticut; Denver; Hawaii; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; New Orleans; New York; North Texas; Northern California; Philadelphia; Phoenix; and St. Louis.

Debbi Peek Accepts Judges' Choice Award for Best Piña Colada

L to R: David Nepove, Debbi Peek, Dan Dunn, Juan Rovira (Chief Marketing Officer, Bacardi USA). | Photo: Jennifer Mitchell for Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC)

The first place Judges’ Choice and Best Technical Performance went to Debbi Peek of Chicago. Judges praised her No Passport Required for its technical precision and complimentary flavors. Peek (the USBG Illinois Chapter President and mixologist at The Bristol) received a check for $1500, a trophy, and a spot at the World Cocktail Competition in Warsaw, Poland.

The People’s Choice award went to Matt Meyers of Las Vegas, who received the majority of the votes cast by the 550 attendees. His Thai Piña Colada was notable for its unique presentation, paired with spicy cashews to create a memorable flavor experience. Meyers said that his entry is currently being served poolside at The Bellagio.

Naomi Schimek Sips Her Havana Au Go Go

Naomi Schimek enjoys her Havana Au Go Go.

Piña Cafe Au Lait by Chris Hannah

Chris Hannah's Piña Cafe Au Lait.

Personal faves included the Havana Au Go Go by Naomi Schimek (The Spare Room) and the Piña Cafe Au Lait by Chris Hannah (French 75 Bar), who gave his creation a local spin.

Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman: “The goal of the USBG Piña Colada competition was to inspire today’s generation of bartenders to re-imagine this classic cocktail and take it forward into the second Golden Age of cocktails. The winning cocktails had true balance and complexity of flavor and deserve their place in history alongside the Original Piña Colada.”

“As the largest network of professional bartenders and mixologists, the USBG was honored to work with Bacardí and In the Mix on an event that brings together the trade community and celebrates the craft of mixology,” said Nepove. “The bartenders invited to compete set the standard for the profession across the country and we were thrilled with the enthusiasm this group showed using Bacardí rum to reinvent the Piña Colada.”

Following the jump are the Piña Colada recipes by Debbi Peek, Matt Meyers, Naomi Schimek and Chris Hannah.

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

No Passport Required by Debbi Peek

No Passport Required by Debbi Peek | Photo: TOTC

No Passport Required
Created by Debbi Peek

  • 2 oz Smoked Bacardi Añejo Rum*
  • 2 oz coconut milk
  • 1 oz roasted Pineapple Puree (Perfect Puree)
  • ½ oz Brown Sugar Syrup (equal parts brown sugar/water)
  • ½ oz Ginger Puree (equal parts fresh ginger/water/sugar, blended until smooth)
  • Garnish: glass dipped in honey and rimmed with toasted coconut


  • Shake all with ice.
  • Strain into toasted coconut-rimmed Piña Colada glass filled with ice.

*Smoked Bacardi Añejo – Cold smoke over cherry wood for 45 minutes.
Note: One hour of prep time needed to toast the coconut, melt the brown sugar, and puree ginger.

Thai Piña Colada by Matt Meyers

Thai Piña Colada by Matt Meyers | Photo: TOTC

Thai Piña Colada
Created by Matt Myers

  • 1½ oz Bacardi 8-Year
  • 2 oz Pina Colada Mix*
  • 1½ oz Thai Syrup**
  • 6 leaves & 1 crown mint leaves (crown = top of mint sprig), muddled & for garnish
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, muddled & for garnish
  • 1 shoot lemongrass garnish


  • In an Old Fashioned glass, bruise 6 mint leaves and 2 kaffir lime leaves with Bacardi 8 rum.
  • Strain rum into blender with Thai Syrup, Pina Colada Mix and 1 scoop of ice. (Reserve glass with bruised leaves.)
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Pour contents into the reserved glass with bruised leaves.
  • Stir leaves quickly. Garnish with 1 lemongrass shoot, 1 kaffir lime leaf and a slapped mint crown.

*Piña Colada Mix (per drink)

  • ½ oz Coco Lopez
  • 1½ oz pineapple juice
  • ½ oz heavy cream
  • Mix thoroughly to beat up and chunk from the Coco Lopez.

**Thai Syrup:
(1 batch Thai Syrup yields 12 portions)

  • ½ bunch lemongrass washed, chopped
  • ½ pint ginger peel, chopped
  • ½ pint kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 liter Fee Brothers Rock Candy Syrup


  • Bring syrup in a medium saucepan to a low simmer.
  • Add aromatics and stir.
  • Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat.
  • Allow to cool to room temp.
  • Strain off chucks and reserve the syrup.
Havana Au Go Go by Naomi Schimek

Havana Au Go Go by Naomi Schimek | Photo: TOTC

Havana Au Go Go
Created by Naomi Schimek

  • ½ oz lime juice
  • 1¾ oz cream of coconut
  • 4 oz pineapple mango puree
  • ¼ oz Green Chartreuse
  • ¼ oz St. Germain
  • 1½ oz Bacardi Superior
  • 8-10 lemon balm leaves
  • Lemongrass essence


  • Place first six ingredients in blender with crushed ice.
  • Blend for approximately 11 seconds, adding lemon balm leaves in at the 8th second.
  • Pour (unstrained) into a Piña Colada glass.
  • Garnish with flower, pineapple, lemon balm leaves, and lemongrass essence in the glassware.
Piña Cafe Au Lait by Chris Hannah

Piña Cafe Au Lait by Chris Hannah | Photo: TOTC

Piña Café Au Lait
Created by Chris Hannah

  • 1 oz Bacardi Superior
  • 1 oz Bacardi Gold
  • 1 oz fresh Pineapple Juice
  • 1 oz Coco Lopez steeped in community coffee for one day, and strained.
  • 1 oz sweetened condensed milk that was also sat overnight with community coffee grinds and strained.
  • 2 oz So Delicious Coconut Half and Half
  • 6 oz ice
  • 2 ground cocoa nibs
  • 1 cinnamon stick for grating


  • Pour first 7 ingredients into blender and blend.
  • With proper microplanes and shavers garnish the Piña Colada, the nibs and cinnamon stick.
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