[LEXINGTON, Ky.] — A Lexington bartender’s tasty mix of fresh muddled strawberries, vanilla, Town Branch® Rye and Ale-8-One, complemented by the spice of cinnamon, pleased the judges’ palates so much that he took home the top prize in the first Town Branch® Cocktail Contest Monday evening. Daniel Weeks of Shorty’s on West Short Street in Lexington won the $1,000 cash prize, cocktail naming rights and entrance into the Bourbon Social Barrel Cup Cocktail Competition in October thanks to his unique, deliciously layered “Town Toast” cocktail. Cocktail enthusiasts can try Weeks’ signature cocktail on Thursday, Aug. 14 from 5 — 9 p.m. at Parlay Social on West Short Street in downtown Lexington when he serves as a guest bartender. His craft cocktail will be available for purchase there.
“I wanted to make something that’s my favorite thing to make in the morning, and that’s French toast,” said Weeks. “This is an easy drink for people that don’t usually drink whiskey,” he added, noting that the first night he made it as an experiment at Shorty’s he quickly went through two bottles of Town Branch Rye as he continued to get requests for the specialty cocktail. “I used one alcohol and ingredients every bartender can get easily. I really wanted to focus on the Town Branch Rye.”
Shakers flashed, ingredients were muddled, and garnishes were added to rocks glasses as the five local finalists crafted their cocktails in front of a live judging panel and an enthusiastic audience sipping their craft cocktails Monday night at Town Branch Distillery. The bartenders were aiming to create the best cocktail using Town Branch Rye and Ale-8-One. Town Branch Rye was launched earlier this year and has been embraced by bartenders for its spice and light notes of vanilla and oak that make it an ideal ingredient in a variety of cocktails.
Judges included local spirits enthusiasts and experts including Mark Coffman, master distiller at Town Branch Distillery; Adam Johnson, director of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®; Laurie Preston, co-founder of the Lexington Bourbon Society; Theresa Stanley, founder of the Bourbon Belle Society; and Mike Wolken, owner of Turf Catering Company. Cocktails were judged on taste, presentation and creativity. Attendees enjoyed samples of the five cocktails as they snacked on hors d’oeuvres and also toured the distillery.
“The competition was fierce,” said Mark Coffman, master distiller at Town Branch Distillery. “But with the Town Toast cocktail, as soon as you taste it, you get this cinnamon and sweetness. All of the ingredients blended together very nicely with the Town Branch Rye and nothing overpowered.”
Other finalists making their specialty cocktails Monday evening included Shayne Bates of Enoteca in Lexington, Adam Geissler of Bour-Bon in Paris and a contract bartender in Lexington, Jonathan Sizemore of Sutton’s Restaurant and Atomic Cafe in Lexington, and Lauren Sundberg of Marriott Griffin Gate Hotel in Lexington.
The free public event on Thursday, Aug. 14 from 5 — 9 p.m. at Parlay Social will feature Daniel Weeks crafting his winning “Town Toast” cocktail. Follow the latest news on the Town Branch Cocktail Contest and Town Branch Distillery on Twitter @TownBranch_KY.