Cocktail Wars Are About To Get Fired Up Again

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Newport, RI’s biggest bartending tournament starts up again at the Gas Lamp Grille on Monday, January 18th.

The process is pretty simple. Four bartenders arrive with three of their own special ingredients, are given the typical tools of the trade (lemons, limes, soda, etc.) and, when it’s announced, the mystery liquor of the week. They then spend 30 minutes mixing samples and tweaking the best drink they can come up with off the top of their heads. They can’t be slacking, because the audience vote goes towards their final score.

Finally, the competitors have to make their new concoction for a panel of three judges, one of whom is selected at random from the audience. The bartenders are judged on a variety of different criteria (flavor, appearance, presentation) and the top two move on to the next round.

There are four weeks of the first round, two of the semi-finals and then one night of finals competition to determine the best bartender (and the runner-up).

The Challenges

The biggest challenge for a bartender participating in Cocktail Wars is no knowing what the liquor of of the night is going to be. This makes selecting the special ingredients a complete gamble. Something that works perfectly with gin might be horrible with bourbon. If you go with something that’s bland enough to go with everything, it will probably be hard to make an exciting drink with it. So the participants will have to plan accordingly, balancing risk vs reward.

The another challenge is bringing enough friends. As mentioned above, the audience vote is calculated in with the judges’ rulings to determine the winner…and not all audience members are necessarily voting on objective grounds, so it helps to have a posse.

Finally, it helps to be a good bartender who can think outside the box and execute.

The next seven Mondays are going to feature a whole lot of bartending excitement, so if you like cocktails, free samples and a little competition, we have to recommend hitting up the Gas Lamp Grille for 10pm.

Here’s your Week 1 Roster:

Nicholas Lima
The White Horse Tavern

IMG_8510 (1)

Joe Watt

joe wattRenae Miozzi
Tate’s Italian Kitchen (Wickford)


Corey Hayes

corey hayes

The smart money is on Nick and Corey, who both work at spots named among our favorite craft cocktail bars…but accidents and upsets do happen.

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Beverage Correspondent


Tristan's just this guy, ya know?