After two exhilarating days and five individual competitions that tested the strength and talent of fifteen of the top bartenders in the US, the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) World Class Sponsored by Diageo has named Laura Newman as the 2018 U.S. Bartender of the Year.
Hosted for the first time at Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Kentucky, home to Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, the acclaimed competition brought together the best bartenders across the country who represent the craft and elevation of the art of cocktail creation with the ultimate goal of representing the US at the global competition, which will be held in Berlin in October.
The first female to claim the title in the US, Laura Newman impressed the judges with her creative showmanship, thoughtful presentations, and keen interest in providing the best hospitality for the customer and as a result earned herself the title of representing the US in the global finals in Berlin.
“It’s truly an honor to be named the US Best Bartender of the Year and I can’t wait to continue on this journey and represent my country at the Global Finals in Berlin. This was my third year competing in USBG World Class, and as someone who was once told that I wouldn’t make it in craft cocktails as a female, I want every female bartender out there to take this accomplishment and know that they can do it too,” commented Laura Newman.
The seventh year of the USBG World Class competition saw thousands of applicants, which led to a series of rigorous regional competitions that proved that the skill and desire to grow in the bartending community is at an impressive all-time high. From there, fifteen bartenders advanced to the national competition hosted at Stitzel-Weller Distillery from June 5th to 6th, to impress judges by drawing unique inspiration from their experience behind the bar paired with the local flavor of their respective hometowns. The bartenders demonstrated their knowledge, skill and creativity by crafting cocktails featuring a selection of the Diageo Reserve brands including Bulleit Bourbon, CIROC Vodka, Johnnie Walker Blended Scotch Whisky, Ketel One Vodka, Tanqueray No. TEN, Tequila Don Julio and Zacapa Rum. The finals are judged by a selection of globally acclaimed bar-industry leaders including the 2017 Global winner Kaitlyn Stewart, 2014 Global winner Charles Joly, past US winners Jeff Bell, Chris Cardone, and acclaimed bartenders and educators including Dale Degroff, Jackson Cannon, and Julie Reiner.
The 2018 USBG World Class program allowed each competitor to showcase their incredible depth of knowledge along impeccable and ever-important hospitality. Day one kicked off with ‘Spirited Storytelling’ where competitors were assigned a spirit at random for which they had to create a full presentation based on the spirit’s history, raw ingredients, production process and tasting notes; followed by the ‘Eco-Challenge’ where two cocktails were crafted with Ketel One Vodka that provided waste-free solutions to some of today’s biggest environmental challenges for bars; followed by ‘Always a World Class Host’ where the mixologists needed to get to know their guests in order to perfectly tailor their serves. Day two started off with a futuristic cocktail that would be created as the next iconic Bulleit Frontier Whiskey serve in the ‘Bulleit, The Next Frontier’ challenge as an homage to the home of this year’s competition. Lastly, competitors crafted ten well-balanced cocktails in just ten minutes or less in ‘Need for Speed’.
“The evolution of the USBG World Class program here in the US has been amazing to witness, and now that we’re in our seventh year here, the competition is bigger than ever. The growing excitement and passion in the bartending community is empowering and we are so proud of the support that this program provides to all involved,” comments Aaron Gregory Smith, Executive Director of the USBG.
Taylor Blades, Director of On Premise for Diageo North America further shares, “The level of skill and dedication that we see during this competition is unparalleled, and it’s not only about their bartending skills, because World Class goes far beyond just the challenges that we see. Everyone involved in this program walks away with new confidence and a stronger sense of community that inspire them to be the very best they can in their field.”
Cocktails featured throughout the competition have been captured on Twitter and Instagram @WorldClassUS for creation and inspiration. When showcasing your own mixology creations or savoring award-winning cocktails crafted by your favorite local bartender, USBG World Class reminds you to drink responsibly.
Wondering what it takes to be crowned the US Best Bartender of the Year? See below for a sampling of Laura’s favorite cocktail recipes created during the competition that helped to take her to the top.
Created by 2018 U.S. Bartender of the Year Laura Newman
1 1/2 oz Bulleit Bourbon
1/2 oz Bitter Digestivo Liqueur
1/2 oz Honey Syrup (1:1)
1/2 oz Citrus Stock Blend (60% lemon juice: 40% broiled lemon husks)
1 small pinch of salt
2 dashes Teapot Bitters
Dehydrated Lemon Wheel for Garnish
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir thoroughly. Strain into a chilled Double Rocks Glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel.
Double Rocks Glass