2013 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards Finalists Announced

Eric Alperin at The Varnish

The Top Four Finalists have been announced for the 7th Annual Spirited Awards, taking place on Saturday, July 20, 2013 at the 11th annual Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Following last year’s Spirited Award for Best American Cocktail Bar, The Varnish is once again a finalist for World’s Best Cocktail Bar, and partner Eric Alperin (pictured above) is likewise a returning finalist, in the American Bartender of the Year category. Harvard & Stone takes the baton from its sister bar, La Descarga, as a finalist in the Best High Volume Cocktail Bar category. Dushan Zaric, who recently moved to Los Angeles, is a Best Bar Mentor finalist. Zaric, along with The 86 Co. partners Simon Ford and Jason Kosmas, is also a finalist in the Best New Product category, for Fords Gin.

Last year, London swept the World’s Best Categories, led by The Connaught Bar for World’s Best Cocktail Bar. The Big Apple looms large at this year’s Spirited Awards, with New York nominees in nearly every category except World’s Best Cocktail Bar, including multiple finalists for World’s Best Cocktail Menu and World’s Best Drink Selection. One thing’s for sure, a New York bar is going to win the Spirited Award for World’s Best New Cocktail Bar.

From the Tales of the Cocktail press release:

Through its annual Spirited Awards®, Tales of the Cocktail® recognizes those that continue to represent the cocktail industry in exciting new spotlights. To embody the ideals in which Tales of the Cocktail® was originally founded, these awards were developed to recognize both national and international honorees across eighteen categories. Each award recipient will receive an exclusive Riedel Crystal trophy.

I was honored to be a member of the USA committee of judges and participate in the voting for this year’s Spirited Awards. Beginning with the largest nomination pool in the history of the Spirited Awards, we were asked to vote for our top five choices in each category. According to the weighted voting system, a top choice in a category received 5 points, while a fifth choice got 1 point.

To facilitate the voting, judges were instructed to follow a set of procedures and protocol. I have to confess, I never really looked at those rules before this year. Once I understood the process, a few key points emerged. For example, judges don’t vote in all 18 categories—the USA judges don’t vote on the World’s Best or International categories, and the International judges don’t vote for the American categories.

I already knew that judges couldn’t vote in a category in which they were nominated. What I didn’t know was that judges couldn’t vote for bars that they didn’t visit personally, which of course makes sense. Judges were encouraged to review writing samples before voting in those categories—a wealth of material that was much appreciated and opened my eyes to a few previously unfamiliar writers and publications.

Once we’d submitted our votes, our job was done. The Top Ten Finalists were announced a couple of weeks ago, followed by the Top Four. None of the judges knew who would make the first cut or the final four. And we’ll find out the winners along with the rest of the world, when the Spirited Awards are announced in New Orleans on July 20.

Online tickets are on sale now for the 2013 Spirited Awards ceremony, which has a Great Gatsby theme this year. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.talesofthecocktail.com.

Photo of Eric Alperin at The Varnish courtesy of DYLAN + JENI.

Hidetsugu Ueno at Nonstop to Tokyo

Hidetsugu Ueno at Nonstop to Tokyo – Tales of the Cocktail 2011

Following is a complete list of the Top Four nominees according to category.

American Bartender of the Year

Best American Brand Ambassador

  • Elayne Duff – Diageo Portfolio
  • Jamie Gordon – Absolut Vodka
  • Neyah White – Yamazaki
  • Todd Richman – Sidney Frank Portfolio

Best American Cocktail Bar

Best Bar Mentor

  • Bridget Albert – Chicago, Illinois
  • Dushan Zaric – Los Angeles, California
  • Francesco Lafranconi – Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Julie Reiner – Brooklyn, New York

Best Cocktail Writing – Author

  • Gary Regan
  • Ian Cameron
  • Paul Clarke
  • Robert Simonson

Best Cocktail Writing – Publication

Best High Volume Cocktail Bar

Best International Brand Ambassador

  • Claire Smith – Belvedere Vodka
  • Giuseppe Gallo – Martini
  • Ian Burrell – Rum Ambassador
  • Jacob Briars – Bacardi Portfolio

Best New Book (Cocktail/Bartending)

  • Drinks by Tony Conigliaro
  • The Tequila Ambassador by Tomas Estes
  • To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion by Philip Greene
  • Vodka Distilled by Tony Abou-Ganim

Best New Product

  • Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters
  • Dorothy Parker Gin
  • Fords Gin
  • Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao

Best Restaurant Bar

  • Island Creek Oyster Bar – Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • No. 9 Park – Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • Saxon + Parole Restaurant – New York, New York, USA
  • The NoMad Hotel – New York, New York, USA

International Bartender of the Year

World’s Best Cocktail Bar

  • Callooh Callay – London, United Kingdom
  • Candelaria – Paris, France
  • Drink – Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • The Varnish – Los Angeles, California, USA

World’s Best Cocktail Menu

World’s Best Drink Selection

World’s Best Hotel Bar

World’s Best New Cocktail Bar

  • Experimental Cocktail Club – New York, New York, USA
  • Pouring Ribbons – New York, New York, USA
  • The Dead Rabbit – New York, New York, USA
  • The NoMad Hotel – New York, New York, USA
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