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​HPR Cocktail Showdown: the results are in

by Chris Larson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cocktail Showdown | January 26th, 2018

Once again it is time to announce the winners of the HPR Cocktail Showdown. After several weeks of sampling a wide array of traditional and modern cocktails, shots, and after-dinner drinks, the results are in and we are excited to present you the winners.

Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was allowed to enter a cocktail, but for the first time ever, we allowed participants to choose to create an after-dinner drink in place of the shot category.

Best Overall : Adam Nehk of Barbacoa/Great Plains Hospitality

HPR: Please give us a brief rundown of your history behind the bar.

Adam Nehk - I’ve been slinging food and drinks in Fargo/Moorhead for ten years now. Really just started getting creative with mixology techniques over the past two years and also just started getting into molecular mixology, which is a fun challenge.

HPR: What is one of your favorite things about being behind the bar?

AN: I love chatting with the regulars and getting to know new people. I have some regulars that come in just to try anything new I’ve been working on. When people trust you enough to provide them a tasty concoction off the top of your head, it makes you feel pretty good.

Adam Nehk of Barbacoa/Great Plains Hospitality

HPR: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?

AN: I always try to think way outside the box when it comes to experimenting and making recipes. I’ll usually do a little research to see what is possible, but I always try to do something that I haven’t seen locally. More and more trends are becoming popular techniques, so it’s always exciting to get something right that not many have seen before.

HPR: Is there a current trend or theme you have been gravitating towards with your drinks?

AN: I try to see what is possible, then twist those trends into something new. Overall, a good balance of flavors is the thing I strive for the most.

HPR: What is your favorite ingredient to create with?

AN: I try to make as many of my own ingredients from scratch as I can. Bitters, tinctures, shrubs, syrups, fat washes, rapid infusions, etc. The more you create yourself, the more unique the drink is to you.

Aaron Duma

First runner up: Aaron Duma
Second runner up: Josh Goedtke

Judd Eskildsen of Proof Artisan Distillers

Best Creativity: Judd Eskildsen of Proof Artisan Distillers

HPR: Please give us a brief rundown of your history behind the bar.

JE: My bartending history is very limited, but I have been cooking in bars almost half of my life. About 5 years ago, I met Elijah Larson, and though he never really sat me down and told me “this is how you do ___”, or “this is why you do ____”, we collaborated over the years. Working with Elijah for so long kind of opened my eyes to another world of flavors that I never dabbled in, and watching him make my drinks for so long gave me a good understanding of how to work behind a bar. Long story short: I’ve never spent real time behind a bar, but I’ve been involved behind the scenes with one of the best in town for a good chunk of time.

HPR: What is one of your favorite things about being behind the bar?

JE: I’ve come to enjoy helping the guest go beyond their “go-to” drink. When I started, I was really getting into the craft beer movement that was kind of just starting to catch fire. Helping people choose a beer that they might like, and really just talking about flavors with them was incredible! I don’t get to talk beer with my guests much anymore, but working with the selection of spirits at Proof, and talking about them with our guests has definitely given me the opportunity to talk flavors again.

HPR: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?

JE: The Fargo-Moorhead area has come a long way since I started! Social media and our area’s local media have been a great way to see what kind of great things the chefs and bartenders are doing, and I think that definitely helps fuel my passion. The drinks have been starting to look just as beautiful as the plates for a while, and the bars are starting to invest time and money into better ingredients and garnishes. Being able to work with and around such great talent in my hometown has been the true inspiration in my food, drinks and drive.

HPR: Is there a current trend or theme you have been gravitating towards with your drinks?

JE: I hear craft distilleries/breweries, buying local and chef-inspired cocktails are huge right now!

HPR: What is your favorite ingredient to create with?

JE: Proof recently bottled a bunch of Crooked Furrow Harvest Blend Bourbon, and we’ve all been having lots of fun playing around with that behind the bar and in the kitchen.

First runner up: Adam Nehk
Second runner up: Aaron Duma

Jarad Tandberg of HoDo Lounge

Best After Dinner Drink - Jarad Tandberg of HoDo Lounge

HPR: Please give us a brief rundown of your history behind the bar.

JT: I've been bartending for about 3 years, mostly at the HoDo.

HPR: What is one of your favorite things about being behind the bar?

JT: My favorite thing about being behind the bar is a guest's reaction when I make them a cocktail they enjoy.

HPR: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?

JT: My inspirations come from my co-workers, the seasons, and a guest’s description of what they are looking for in a cocktail.

HPR: Is there a current trend or theme you have been gravitating towards with your drinks?

JT: The theme behind the majority of the cocktails I make is seasonal. I really like making different variations of a smash when given the opportunity.

HPR: What is your favorite ingredient to create with?

JT: Tequila is my favorite spirit to work with at the moment

First runner up: Judd Eskildsen
Second runner up: Chris Staloch

Maggie Green of Blarney Stone

Best Shot: Maggie Green of Blarney Stone

HPR: Please give us a brief rundown of your history behind the bar.

MG: I have been a bartender in the Fargo area off and on for over 5 years. For the last 3 1/2 years I have been at the Blarney Stone in West Fargo.

HPR: What is one of your favorite things about being behind the bar?

MG: My favorite thing about being behind the bar is the people you meet. People come and sit at the bar to have a good time. They really open up. It keeps things interesting and fun.

HPR: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?

MG: I get a lot of inspiration from the people I work with -- coworkers and guests. People share their favorite cocktails or a recipe from a recent trip and we go from there. I definitely learn a lot when traveling.

HPR: Is there a current trend or theme you have been gravitating towards with your drinks?

MG: It is hard to pinpoint one theme or trend because the whole industry is so exciting right now. It feels like there are new ingredients and techniques popping up every day and it's hard to just stay in one lane.

HPR: What is your favorite ingredient to create with?

MG: It depends on the day but I would say my favorites are whiskey and ginger.

First runner up: Carrie Schultz
Second runner up: Kayla Erickson

Molly Fontaine

Best Standard Bar Drink: Molly Fontaine

HPR: Please give us a brief rundown of your history behind the bar.

MF: I started learning to bartend at my uncle's bar, Tom and Jerry's Bar in Chisholm, Minn. I moved to the F-M area for college, joined the Holiday Inn team during my junior year and have held almost every position within my department. I am currently the assistant beverage manager, but you can find me slinging drinks behind the bar on the weekends.

HPR: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?

MF: Reading old recipe books and seeing old trends in cocktails and palettes and how they have evolved into the creations we are seeing now is something that I definitely try to follow and pull inspiration from.

HPR: Is there a current trend or theme you have been gravitating towards with your drinks?

MF: I think my trend is just sticking true to the integrity of the classic standards; from the history of the cocktails to understanding how they are meant to taste, to the proper execution, right down to the garnish and serving.

HPR: What is your favorite ingredient to create with?

MF: Any ingredient I have yet to work with.

First runner up: Carrie Schultz
Second runner up: Kayla Erickson

Chris Staloch of Tru Blu Social Club

Best Presentation: Chris Staloch of Tru Blu Social Club

We were unable to reach Chris for an interview before publication but look for him in our upcoming Bartenders Battle preview.

First runner up: Aaron Duma
Second runner up: John Rian

Josh Goedtke of The Boiler Room

Best Flavor: Josh Goedtke of The Boiler Room

We were unable to reach Josh for an interview before publication but look for him in our upcoming Bartenders Battle preview.

First runner up: Molly Fontaine
Second runner up: Aaron Duma

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