The focus of the fifth annual Iron Shaker cocktail competition was literature. Finalists from 10 different bars around the state gathered at the Asbury Hotel in Asbury Park to concoct drinks with four category themes in mind: fairy tales, romance, superheroes and Dr. Seuss.
First-place winner Ian Alexander from Due Mari in New Brunswick competed in last year’s finals, and was back again to fight for another chance at the grand prize. “This was my shot at redemption,” said Alexander. “I learned from my mistakes last year. Presentation is a big deal.”
The drink he credits for his win? A Hulk-inspired mixture of Tres Agaves tequila blanco, Bluecoat American gin, Noilly Prat dry vermouth, honeydew melon juice, fennel seed-infused simple syrup, lime juice and smoked paprika simple syrup—which he presented during the superheroes-themed third round alongside prosciutto and melon. “Who doesn’t love that flavor combination?” he said.
Past competitor and second-place winner Bobby Frascella, bar manager of Summit House in Summit, impressed judges during the first round by serving cocktails out of a porron—a traditional glass wine pitcher with a long spout. The fairy tale-themed cocktail, called the Whole New World, was a mixture of Bluecoat American gin, Bluecoat Barrel-Aged Gin, St. George raspberry liqueur, apple juice, lemon juice and jasmine syrup. The drink helped Frascella take an early lead after the first round.
This year’s competition also brought out mixologists that had never participated before, like Jason Turon and Kristina Neuwirth from the Stirling Tavern in Morristown. “This is year one for us,” said Turon. “So we’re very honored and stoked to have made it to the finals.” Their superhero-inspired cocktail, Under the Red Hood, was a creative and balanced mixture of Tres Agaves reposado tequila, Xicaru Mezcal, carrot juice, honey-maple syrup, beet juice, lemon juice and cardamom bitters.
Judging this year’s competition were John Oliver of Breakthru Beverage Group; Iron Shaker 2013 winner Chris James; and Iron Shaker 2015 winner Vince Miezejewski. Guests were also allowed to vote for their favorite cocktail in each round, and the audience vote was included in the competitors’ scores for each of the four rounds.
Brand sponsors of this year’s competition were St. George Spirits, Bluecoat Gin, Clyde May’s Whiskey, Tres Agaves Tequila, Xicaru Mezcal, La Hechicera Rum, Avua Cachaca, Prairie Vodka and Michter’s Whiskey. The event was presented by Allied Beverage Group and New Jersey Monthly was the exclusive media sponsor.Click here to leave a comment