Regional Semifinalists Chosen for Heaven Hill Brands, 2016 “Bartender of the Year”

January 12, 2016

BARDSTOWN, KY – Heaven Hill Brands and announced today the 32 regional semifinalists competing for the 2016 Bartender of the Year competition. Semifinalists will compete in New Orleans, San Francisco, New York, or Chicago beginning February 2016.

Over 600 original cocktail recipes using Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur, Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon, PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, and Rittenhouse Rye Whisky were submitted online nationwide beginning August 1, 2015. Preliminary entries required two original cocktail recipes, one classic and one innovative, along with a short description of what hospitality means to the contestant.

“Bartenders bring further innovation and creativity to our products that exemplify the diverse products Heaven Hill has to offer,” said Kate S. Latts, Vice President, Marketing for Heaven Hill Brands. “Our leading portfolio of spirits is filled with pioneer brands that continue to push the boundary, which mirror what we hope to identify in the Bartender of the Year. We look forward to seeing and tasting the innovative cocktails of the top talent in the U.S.”

National Brand Educator for Heaven Hill Brands Lynn House, Director of Mixology & Spirits Education for Southern Wine & Spirits of New York Allen Katz, and Bar Manager of Clyde Common & Pépé Le Moko Jeffrey Morgenthaler evaluated the online submissions and chose eight semifinalists for each region based on highest scores. Cocktail submissions were scored on name, appearance and presentation, inspiration, balance of flavors, aroma and character, creativity, and product knowledge.

Semifinalists will be challenged on their full range of skills as hospitality professionals. Judges will be looking for the ultimate bartender who displays the total breadth and aptitude all bartenders aspire to embody. The top two contestants from each region will vie for the title of Bartender of the Year and $15,000 at the St. Regis Bahia Resort in Puerto Rico in June 2016.

Grounded in the original Bartender of the Year competition hosted by Domaine de Canton starting in 2009, Heaven Hill Brands resurrected the competition due to strong demand from bartenders worldwide. Past winners of the competition include John Lermayer, Sean Kenyon and Dennis Gobis.

Founded in 1935, Bardstown, KY-based Heaven Hill Brands ( is the nation’s largest independent, family-owned and operated spirits producer and marketer and the world’s second-largest holder of Kentucky Bourbon. Heaven Hill’s diversified portfolio of brands includes Evan Williams Bourbon; Larceny, Elijah Craig and Henry McKenna Bourbons; Deep Eddy Vodka; Burnett’s Vodkas and Gin; Admiral Nelson’s and Blackheart Rums; Hpnotiq Liqueur; The Christian Brothers Brandies; PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur; Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur; Lunazul Tequila; Cinerator Hot Cinnamon Flavored Whiskey and Rittenhouse Rye Whisky.

The 2016 Bartender of the Year Regional Semifinalists are as follows, in no specific order:

Name City Regional City
Will Lee Detroit Chicago
Egor Polonskiy Chicago Chicago
James Downs Detroit Chicago
Robert Ryan Buchanan Denver Chicago
Julia Momose Chicago Chicago
Jess Keene Chicago Chicago
Matty Eggleston Chicago Chicago
Allison Widdecombe Denver Chicago
Robert Ferrara Miami New Orleans
Jesse Carr New Orleans New Orleans
Justin Ware Houston New Orleans
Bonnie Wilson Plano, Texas New Orleans
Abigail Gullo New Orleans New Orleans
Tibor Vecsesi Miami New Orleans
Mike Henderson Denver New Orleans
Ky Belk Denver New Orleans
Andrew Meltzer San Francisco San Francisco
Jennifer Akin Ashland, Ore. San Francisco
Ryan Lobe Seattle San Francisco
Brian Means San Francisco San Francisco
Jorge Vargas-Baquedano Las Gatos, Calif. San Francisco
Kaytie Keck Boise, Idaho San Francisco
Seth Marquez Sacramento, Calif. San Francisco
Richard Beltzer Anchorage, Alaska San Francisco
Meaghan Montagano Brooklyn, N.Y. New York
Aaron Joseph Baltimore New York
Pietro Collina New York New York
Benjamin Zorn Brooklyn, N.Y. New York
Nicolas Flower New York New York
Christopher James Morristown, N.J. New York
Michael R. Anderson Pittsburgh New York
Naomi Levy Boston New York


Lauren Cherry
Heaven Hill Brands
(502) 413-0217
[email protected]

Enjoy Like a True Kentuckian: Responsibly