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Averna Cocktail Contest Finalists

At long last, the finalists in the Averna Cocktail Competition have been narrowed down through a series of great regional events that took place around the country over the past few weeks. The competition drew amazing talent from across the U.S., and the finalists represent an impressive cross-section of bartenders. San Francisco’s Cantina hosted the western regional semi-finals, where Thomas Waugh of Alembic Bar and Jeff Hollinger of Absinthe Brasserie emerged as the top two finalists. Thomas’s Hierba Buena Cocktail combined Averna with reposado tequila, creme de cacao, heavy cream and mint, while Jeff’s Midnight in Sicily mixed Averna with gin, “Sicilian style” blood orange agrodolce and mint.

On the East Coast, semi-finalists converged at Devin Tavern in New York to put their best Averna cocktails to the test, with Don Lee of PDT and Damon Dyer of Death & Company (pictured right) coming out on top. Damon’s Tuesdays with Mole combined Averna, Goslings Black Seal, Demerara, lemon juice and egg white, while Don’s La Cola Nostra matched Averna with Zacapa 23, lime juice, simple syrup, pimento dram and Champagne.

The lone female finalist emerged at the Miami regional competion. Debbi Peak of the Drawing Room in Chicago (pictured left) won the judges over with her Anima Bella: Averna, gin, Mineola citrus juice, orange juice, simple syrup, fresh raspberries and fresh blackberries. Now the finalists will prepare to travel to Sicily where they will compete against each other for the grand prize later this summer.

Congrats to everyone who entered the competition and especially to those heading to the finals—should be a fantastic final event! In the meantime, here’s one of the finalist recipes to enjoy yourself.

Thomas Waugh, Alembic Bar

1 1/4 oz. Averna
1 1/4 oz. Don Julio reposado tequila
1/4 oz. white creme de cacao
1 oz. heavy whipping cream
3 dashes Fee Brothers mint bitters

First, to make bitter mint cream: add mint bitters and heavy cream to a cocktail shaker. Dry shake (no ice) for 30 secs. Set aside. Then stir Averna, tequila and cacao in a mixing glass full of ice for 45 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Using a bar spoon, carefully layer the cream on top of the cocktail. Garnish with shaved chocolate and fresh mint sprig.

Photos by J. Avery Wham and Sid Hoeltzell

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