As restaurants and bars open their doors for guests, our hope for the return of normalcy also rises. Even though carefree bar hopping might still be a few months away, a casual drink at the bar, thankfully, is still an option in most cities.
When it comes to ordering a G&T or a cocktail at the bar, we often tend to gravitate towards house spirits or those that we already know of. But why settle when you have a variety of award-winning spirits at your disposal, tasted and approved by some of the best bartenders in the game.
If you’re looking for an excellent spirit that checks off all the boxes, then the Bartenders Spirits Awards winners list is a great place to look. Every year, judges at the spirits competition pull together a list of some of the best pours from around the world, waiting to be tasted and loved by you.
How is the competition judged?
The main aim of the Bartender Spirits Awards is to highlight those spirits that are a great addition to barbacks, store shelves, restaurant lists, and our very own liquor cabinets - making it an ideal choice for us to drink. While most spirits competitions assess libations based on only their quality, the Bartender Spirits Awards goes a step further and takes into consideration the overall aspects that make a drink appealing to us - the quality, the value it offers, and the packaging. These are factors that we subconsciously look at while picking a spirit to drink.
The quality has key elements like mixability, balance, versatility, and taste. The mixability of a spirit determines how well the product is blended and its ability to combine with other spirits and mixers for cocktails. Next comes the balance and versatility, which measures the flavor and aromas of a spirit. Is it a well-rounded spirit? And is it something mixologists and bartenders desire to have stood on their back bar? Taste comes next, where judges taste and appraise the nose, palate, and quality of the spirit. Following the taste is value, which, when put to the test, needs to answer one question ‘is it worth the money I’m paying?’.
The last category looked at is packaging, and one of the most important of all. In most competitions, the packaging aspect is often overlooked. However, the Bartender Spirits Awards believes that we shop with our eyes, and if the bottle of a product isn’t attractive, then one would never get to the point of tasting it - as it would usually be skipped over at a store or online. Judges have noted that attractive packaging enhances the overall experience of drinking the spirit and is of importance to consider. These judging parameters blend seamlessly together so no aspect of a spirit is overlooked, and the brand gains the recognition it deserves.
Scoring is done out of a 100, from which, spirits with a score of 96 points and above are awarded the Double Gold medal. Those whose scores land between 90-95 are crowned with a Gold medal, while spirits ranking between 80-89 points bank a Silver. Those that score between 70-79 points earn a Bronze medal.
Special category awards (like Whisky of the Year, Gin of the Year, Vodka of the Year) are also handed to those spirits that have an exceptional showcase in all parameters.
Who is judging?
The judging panel at the Bartender Spirits Awards consists of the creme-de-la-creme of the industry. On the judging seats are bartenders, bar managers, spirits buyers, and experts stemming from some of the most renowned bars and restaurants in the country. With years of experience on hand and a true passion for spirits - these judges are involved in the daily deed of working with spirits.
This year’s ensemble of judges includes influential names like Eryn Reece - Head Bartender at Banzarbar, New York. Eryn Reece has been working in the hospitality industry since the age of 16, and is known to make a mean gin martini that you can easily recreate!
Alongside Eryn are Juyoung Kang - Lead Bartender at The Dorsey inside The Venetian Resort, Las Vegas; Aom Aphiradi Lee - Beverage and Food Manager at W Hotels; Courtney Bunn - Director of Beverage The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, and JW Marriott L.A; and Scotty Holland - Bartender at PABU to name a few.
Around the world with award-winning spirits
The Bartender Spirits Awards sees producers enter their spirits from all corners of the globe, including heavy-duty spirit-production regions like Germany, France, UK, Australia, USA, Ireland, to the lesser-known regions with great products that don’t get the attention they deserve.
2020 saw European regions reign over others with Ireland’s Kinsale Gin taking the title of Gin of the Year and Gin Producer of the Year. VSOP Cognac by French producer Drouet was named Spirit of the Year, Best Value of the Year, and Brandy Cognac of the Year.
The competition also highlighted a major upcoming drinks category - ready to drink cocktails - which has been a favorite for most of us during the lockdown and continues to be a choice for many. The Tequila Lime Margarita by Cutwater Spirits was awarded a whopping score of 97, along with a Double Gold medal.
With a wide range of excellent spirits to choose from, you might just find a new favorite to hold on to.