Who wins when best downtown bartenders compete?

Zach Gillani of Sapphire won second place for “Power Up,” a drink spicy with ginger that included vodka, tomatillo solution, Rushy Springs Farm Manzanilla pepper shrub, bell pepper oleo saccharum, Reed’s ginger beer and shaved ginger root. Very original. A “shrub” is a vinegar-based syrup; an “oleo saccharum” is citrus peels ground in sugar.

They called it the Tomato Jam and it was a spirited (ha!) event held yesterday to benefit Nourish Knoxville, the non-profit that runs the Market Square Farmers’ Market and other outreach programs designed to make us a healthier community.

The drinks competition pitted eight bartenders from some of downtown’s best-known restaurants and bars against each other in an attempt to make the best tomato-based cocktail from locally grown produce.

Attendees at the event, held at the Mill & Mine, voted on their favorites and here were the winners:

First Place: J.C. Holdway and bartender Micah Talley for a drink called “Don’t Go Bacon My Heart.”

Second Place: Sapphire and bartender Zach Gillani for a drink called “Power Up.”

Third Place: The Drawing Room at the Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel and bartender Kyle Hagerty for a drink called “The Cherokee Leg Bruise.

I do not disagree with the results, but, to tell you the truth, I found something to like in each of the eight drinks. Some were sweet, some were spicy, some were smoky. They all were creative.

Knoxville Whiskey Works provided the liquor for the drinks. Knox Mason provided brunch food. This was a “first annual” event, so make plans to attend next year! It was a lot of fun.

The winning team from J.C. Holdway, from left, Jared Hendrix, bartender Micah Talley and owner Joseph Lenn. Congrats, guys!

Here’s the drink. “Don’t Go Bacon My Heart” was smoky and contained Benton’s bacon bits in the bottom! In addition, it had vodka, smoked Roma tomatoes, lime, basil puree and basil buds. Yum.

Drawing Room manager Kyle Hagerty took third place with the “Cherokee Leg Bruise.” He explained that the heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes used in the concoction are the color of a leg bruise! The drink contained vodka and smoked Cherokee Purple tomatoes in house made shrub. You could really taste the smoke. Terrific.

Some Cherokee Leg Bruises ready to be slurped up. (Several of us discovered that all the drinks tasted better when sipped through straws because the alcohol tended to float to the top making the drink seem watery if sipped from the rim.)

Jeannie Dulaney, left, and Rosa Mar were happy to help judge the wares.

From left, attendees Brian and Pam Rhoades and Dr. Jerry and Joni Punch.

Bartender Vance McCarty of Peter Kern’s Library had a very creative entry: “After School Special.” He said it was inspired by an after-school snack of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup!

Here it is: corn whiskey and a house made mix of Better Boy tomatoes and bell peppers served in a glass rimmed in smoked salt and Herbs De Provence. Garnish was a pimento cheese-stuffed Peppadew pepper on a garlic crouton. It was amazing.

Using corn whiskey instead of vodka made this unique drink stand out even more.

From left, Dawn and Richard Ford with Madge Cleveland. Quipped Madge: “Cocktails are such a thing right now. When all I want is a Cutty Sark and water!”

Dan and Kathy Hamilton.

Art Carmichael and Rebecca Saldivar of the Tootsie Truck.

It was a great time for mingling.

Knox Mason provided huge chicken biscuits to soak up the alcohol.

There was other fare, as well.

Century Harvest Farms donated tomato jam (which was great on my chicken biscuit) and pickled green beans.

Over at Kaizen, “Super Sentais” were being served up. The props were appropriate.

Hannah Howard was putting out the concoction of yellow tomatoes, Mountain Meadows Farm peaches, basil, lemon juice, agave syrup and cardamom. Oh, and vodka. Yummy.

Guest Tom Wolf was enjoying the process!

Mickey Mallonee, left, and Vivian Vega nearly matched.

Mickey assembled a nice plate and let me take a picture of it.

Here’s Palmer Mason from Lonesome Dove Western Bistro.

His drink was called “Towanda” and featured vodka, red tomato water, watermelon, cane sugar, mint, salt and pink peppercorns.

From left, Laura and Mark Heinz with Marie and Bob Alcorn.

From left, Matt Gallaher and Caroline Farris with Matt and Jen Mowrer. Gallaher is the chef owner of Knox Mason, which provided the food.

These grape tomatoes stuffed with pomegranate seeds were garnishes for “Kvass and Effect,” the drink offering of The Public House.

Serving it up was Erica Casey. “Kvass” is a low-alcohol fermented Slavic beverage.

This drink featured beet kvass, pressed heirloom tomato water, vodka, pomegranate vinegar and a dash of citrus. Loved it.

From left, Joe Gouffon, Russell and Ruthie Kuhlman.

From left, Lisa and Dan Duncan with Diana Condon.

Mickey Mallonee, left, and Shaun Fulco being photo bombed with devil horns courtesy of Rosa Mar.

Ben Maddox of Knox Mason had a very unusual offering: “Tennessee Hogwarsh!” It contained horseradish-infused vodka, Benton’s ham hock broth and Golden Boy tomatoes. I had him add a shot of hot sauce to mine!

Gay Lyons, left, and Deborah Franklin.

Helping with the check-in and other technicalities were, from left, Paige Travis, Deirdre Matheson and Fiona McAnally.

Great, great job, everyone. So, who wins when the best downtown bartenders compete? Everybody!





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8 Responses to Who wins when best downtown bartenders compete?

  1. Shaun Fulco, on July 24th, 2017 at 1:40 pm said:

    What a fun event! The drinks all were very good. Loved the creativity. Looking forward to next year.

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on July 24th, 2017 at 1:51 pm said:

    Me, too, Shaun! These will be hard to top. But I’m willing to go with an open mind — and an open mouth!

  3. Monique Anderson, on July 24th, 2017 at 1:56 pm said:

    Making me thirsty!

  4. Rosa Mar, on July 24th, 2017 at 2:10 pm said:

    Very fun event!! Good food and good drinks with good friends!!

  5. Pam Rhoades, on July 24th, 2017 at 2:50 pm said:

    Now, THIS was a FUN event. We thoroughly enjoyed the amazing concoctions, brunch bites and talking to a variety of people! Thanks to Nourish Knoxville!

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on July 24th, 2017 at 4:37 pm said:

    Monique: You and Bruce need to go next year! I am!

    Rosa: Glad you could go! You are a very discriminating judge — and a good photo bomber!

    Pam: So much fun seeing you all there!

  7. Gay Lyons, on July 24th, 2017 at 8:11 pm said:

    Very fun! Have to agree on the Top Three but enjoyed tasting all. The Fried Chicken Biscuits from Knox Mason were the perfect accompaniment. Great turnout for first year–Expect to see lots more turn out next year to support Nourish Knoxville.

  8. Cynthia Moxley, on July 24th, 2017 at 8:31 pm said:

    Gay: Liked the top three and don’t disagree. But sure did like that “After School Special” from Peter Kern’s Library. I thought it was SO creative – the theme, the choice of liquor and the garnish.

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