This past Monday, September 16, NYC’s Houston Hall was transformed into a mini-Oktoberfest, but instead of beer, there was Bärenjager. The 4th Annual Bärenjager Bartender Competition put together six top bartenders from around the country to compete for the best Bärenjager infused cocktail, in order to win a trip for two to Berlin plus $1000 (for the Grand Prize) or $1000 (for the audience favorite). The pretzels, sausages, and appropriately themed beer mug antenna headbands and other paraphernalia flowed freely, and guests were allowed to hop from table to table as they imbibed on cocktail after cocktail.
The Bären-liger by Stuart N. Jensen of Denver, CO
Todd Richman, American Brand Ambassador of the Year, hosted the event, and The Ja Ja Jas, a polka band, bumped their tunes all night long and gave me a new and unlikely appreciation for polka. The esteemed judges came from a variety of drink-related backgrounds but the highlight judge for me (as I’m sure he was for everyone else was Wilmer Valderrama – yes, that Wilmer Valderrama, of Fez from That 70’s Show fame.
The Ja Ja Jas
David Shenaut of Vancouver, WA pouring his drink: Dancing Bare
Charles Tappan Jr. from Washington DC shakes up a Kuma 375 (below)
Adam Murphy of Palatine, IL crafting his Abeja Libre (below)
My personal favorite? Adam Murphy’s Abeja Libre, which was like a slightly sweeter pisco sour (one of my favorite cocktails) topped with a sage leaf.
Judges: Dushan Zaric (founder of world famous Employees Only and Macao Trading Co.), Jim Meehan (Managing Partner of PDT), Sean Kenyon (proprietor of Williams & Graham in Colorado), Tricia Alley (Director of Mixology for Southern California Wine & Spirits), and Wilmer Valderrama!
So who won? The ladies swept the top prizes – Jessica Dure’s Good Ice took home the audience favorite award, and Naomi Levy won the Grand Prize with her very German Beer Hunter – which come complete with a pretzel bite, garnished with a German flag. Below, recipes of the two winning cocktails so you can make your own.
Jessica Dure of Brooklyn, NY
GOOD ICE – Crowd Favorite
Jessica Dure, Brooklyn, NY
¾ oz. Bärenjager Honey Liqueur
½ oz. Perry Tot’s Navy Strength Gin
¼ oz. lemon
Barspoon crushed chamomile buds
1 Egg white
2 oz. Cidre de Normandie
Combine all ingredients except Cidre de Normandie. Dry shake. Add ice and shake. Double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Add Cider to the large tin containing the remaining ice. Give it a quick swirl and double strain into coupe to top. Garnish with angostura and a thin lemon wheel dropped in.
Naomi Levy of Cambridge, MA
BEER HUNTER – Grand Prize Winner
Naomi Levy, Cambridge, MA
1 ½ oz. Bärenjager Honey Liqueur
1 oz. Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey
½ oz. Lemon juice
1 Heaping Barspoon Apricot Mustard*
Mount all ingredients except for the beer in a pint glass. Add ice and shake. Pour contents into a ½ L stein and top with Weihenstephaner. Serve with a German style pretzel
*Apricot mustard: in a food processor or blender, blend equal parts apricot preserves with spicy Dijon mustard. If needed add a splash of cider vinegar if mustard seems too thick.
To find out more about Bärenjager, visit their website.