Sidebar, Louisville’s newest Whiskey Row enterprise in the shadow of the YUM! Center, was the setting this week for the semi-finals of the Four Roses/Magic City Cocktail Competition. The contest was created by the United States Bartenders’ Guild in conjunction with Starz Network, and the winner, who’ll be crowned after the finals at the Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg, Ky., on June 9 and 10, could win a walk-on role on the Starz show “Magic City.”
OK, that’s the fine print. I wasn’t judging this cocktail contest; I was mostly there to sip some Four Roses and to check out Sidebar. My first impression is quite favorable. It has a great location and a cool, slightly upscale vibe, and if the sliders that were offered as appetizers truly represent the burger-centric menu, I can’t wait to try a full-size one.
While I sampled, I watched the six contestants - five from Indianapolis and Louisville’s own Colin Shearn (St. Charles Exchange) - prepare their cocktails. You guys, the USBG is tough! Each contestant was judged on things like over- and under-pouring, spillage and “garnish neatness” - and they were being timed. And that’s before the four judges, who were in an adjoining room, even started assessing each drink’s aroma, taste, presentation, etc. No wonder most people’s hands were shaking a little.
Because they were already under a lot of pressure, I didn’t want to bother them, and so I took a photograph of only one. That would be Kendall Lockwood from Ball & Biscuit in Indianapolis, who is preparing her cocktail, “The Hooch,” above. It was a savvy choice, because she ended up winning. (The recipe is below.) Unlike some of these things, where only the judges get to taste the competing drinks, we hoi polloi also got a sip, and so I can tell you that Kendall’s cocktail is smooth and sweet and would make a nice dessert drink.
I will be visiting Sidebar again soon for that burger and for a barrel-aged cocktail. Watch for updates.
The Bourbon Babe, left, with Nick Clark and Ellen King for Four Roses. (Yes, we often just stand around holding a bottle of bourbon while we chat here in Kentucky.) Photo by Jerry Zegart.
Kendall Lockwood’s “The Hooch”
1.5 oz Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
0.5 oz Prunier VSOP
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz vanilla infused organic whole milk
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake and strain into Embassy glass and sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg.