2011 Bärenjäger Bartender Competition

by Alia Akkam

Perhaps it was the unseemly addition of vermouth that gave Kyle Ford an edge in the 2011 Bärenjäger Bartender Competition, held at the Andaz 5th Avenue’s Bar Downstairs in Midtown Manhattan Monday evening. The aperitif, which fell out of favor with Extra Dry Martini stalwarts, has once again emerged as quite “a drinkable substance,” according to Ford.

Ford’s winning cocktail, the light, stirred “SS Europa,” which garnered him $1,000 and a trip to Munich, married Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth with Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur - the event’s circa 18th century German guest of honor - balanced with a few dashes of California-made St. George Absinthe. “There was no unique syrup; just back to the basics,” the San Fran transplant, who can now be found at Empellon in NYC, points out.

A vermouth-Bénédictine-absinthe libation found in the classic Savoy Cocktail Book named the Chrysanthemum was the inspiration for Ford’s cocktail. He tinkered with the recipe, pared it down, and swapped out the Bénédictine for sweet-spicy-herbaceous Bärenjäger. The drink, Ford says, may just appeal because of its “blatant simplicity.”

SS Europa  
1 part Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur
2 parts Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
3 dashes St. George absinthe    
Stir for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Meet some more ace bartenders in the “Winners’ Circle,” our new blog featuring chats with cocktail competition champs, starting next week.