SYRACUSE, NY — How to identify the best bartender in Syracuse? A heavyweight Craft Cocktail Battle, of course.
The battle — think a ‘Chopped’-like cocktail-making contest for local mixologists — has been underway this fall. It reaches the third preliminary round 7 p.m. Sunday at The York, 247 W. Fayette St. in Armory Square use this link. Another preliminary round will be in early December, with the finale — and championship round — just before Christmas.
The public can join in. It’s $20 per session to taste, cheer and participate in the judging (and get one free drink and passed appetizers). Music is by DJ Stay Gold.
The idea comes from a group called Ice Cream Social, which is putting it together as the first in what members hope is a series of creative, “out of the box,” events promoting the “hippest venues” in Syracuse.
“Our goal is to showcase local creativity and imagination,” said Chris Bily, a partner in the Modern Malt diner in downtown Syracuse and one of the Ice Cream Social founders. “We started with craft cocktails because creating drinks at a bar fits that perfectly, and lets us promote the many great bars and bartenders we have in town.”
It works like this: In each round, four bartenders face off, in pairs. The two winners from each pair face off in the final match-up of the round.
The bartenders must come up with a drink in 7 minutes — using a secret ingredient selected by the organizers. So far, these have included tarragon, grape jelly, habanero peppers, bread and butter pickle juice — and Gannon’s Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.
A panel of “celebrity” judges — along with a crowd voice vote — determine the winner, based on presentation, flavor and creativity. During each round, the bartenders have 20 minutes to scale the drink up to serve the crowd.
Two rounds have been held so far, all at The York, the new downtown restaurant whose owner, Danny Vault, is a strong supporter of the aims of Ice Cream Social, Bily said.
In the first round, Phil Davoli of Bull & Bear Roadhosue faced Marisa Connelly of SKY Armory and Steve Samuels of Otro Cinco battled James Reed of Pastabilities. Samuels emerged as the winner, and Connelly was the runner-up.
In Round 2, Max Puglisi of Alto Cinco faced Justin LaBrake of World Martini Lounge and Jamie Luzinski of Al’s Wine & Whiskey took on Hannah Cisar of Strada Mia. Luzinski won Round 2, with Puglisi the runner-up.
In Sunday’s Round 3, Jeremy Hammil of the Scotch ‘N Sirloin battles Rosalyn Peterson (of Comfort Foods catering; and Lee Bordonaro of The York) faces Jordan Davies of The Ridge Golf Club.
The final preliminary, Round 4, will likely be on Dec. 6. It features Anna Diaz of Empire Brewing Co, versus Jamie Burton of Arad Evans Inn in the first pairing. The second pairing allows some of the previous runners-up to face each other in a “redemption round,” Bily said.
The final round — and crowning of the champ — should be Dec. 20, Bily said. In all, 14 local bartenders will compete.
Ice Cream Social is planning future events and other ideas, Bily said. Other Ice Cream Social organizers are Eric Hinman of Urban Life Athletics; Scott Friedberg of Gilded Social; Chris Fowler of Syracuse First; Anthony Donofrio of Modern Malt.
“It’s a social thing, aimed at the arts and nightlife in Syracuse,” Bily said. “There’s a lot of potential that we can promote.”