The nominees for Bartender of the Year at the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards 2021 are a heterogeneous group. Together they work for some of the best bars and restaurants in town and bring decades of experience to their craft.
It is not easy to get the attention of our jury of restaurant professionals. To stand out from the crowd, a bartender not only needs to make drinks, but he should also be dedicated to service, passionately enjoying the drinks he serves and constantly looking for improvement.
Our 10 finalists demonstrate these qualities and serve as positive examples for their colleagues. Plus, it’s just fun to sit in front of them and have a drink. That counts too.
Who will win? Find out at the Tastemaker Awards party on July 22nd. We’ll have bites from this year’s nominated restaurants before host Bun B announces the winners. Buy tickets now before they sell out.
Alphonso Quiñones – Tiny Champions
This veteran of establishments like Johnny’s Gold Brick and Bad News Bar brings his passion for gently leading people to new spirits and cocktails – he says converting vodka-soda drinkers is a personal favorite – to the bustling East End restaurant . His interest in tropical flavors is evident in the restaurant’s chutney chilada, a reef on a michelada that contains a fermented mango chutney. In general, Quiñones tries to take techniques from the kitchen and apply them in making ingredients for the bar.
Avery Davis – March
Guests will find Davis not only behind one of the nicest bars in town, but also on stage, either alone or with other local musicians. This open-minded personality translates well into customer interactions, but Davis says it also makes him very meticulous about his work. As a barista, before he became a bartender, his favorite Amaro cocktails have a slightly bitter profile – just like espresso.
Derek Brown – Riel
This bartender brings experience from working for some of New York’s top chefs, including Daniel Boulud and David Chang, to his role at Montrose Restaurant. Rely on balanced cocktails that go well with the creations of chefs Ryan Lachaine and Peter Nguyen. On Thursday evening, Brown will be overseeing Nhau’s happy hour offerings at Blood Bros. BBQ.
Josh Alden – Reserve 101
For this seasoned bartender, it was a welcome challenge to bring a sophisticated, modern cocktail program to a bar that is primarily known as a place for pure whiskey drinking. Reserve 101 will always be a whiskey bar, but with Alden behind the bar it is more welcoming to a wider class of drinkers, which seems fitting for someone who helped create the hugely popular offering in the Heights beer garden. While modern cocktails are his trademark, ask him to recommend an Islay scotch; the man has a passion for peat.
Khrystah Luisa de los Santos Gorham – Two-headed dog
This bartender describes herself as “an eighth generation gender non-conformist Texan who lives to taste the earth”. Gorham’s open-minded personality led her to a career in the service industry, creating beverages using local, seasonal ingredients inspired by her Mexican heritage. Note her welcoming presence behind the bar at Two Headed Dog, where she does whatever customers want but recommends a favorite mezcal or other funky agave spirit when prompted.
Máté Hartai – a sparrow with a tongue cut
This 15-year-old bartending veteran describes himself as detail-oriented, which is an important quality about a bar where cocktails are made as precisely as tongue-cut sparrow. When asked about his favorite cocktails, he names the classic daiquiri as one that is particularly dear to his heart. As a Hungarian immigrant, Hartai will soon start importing his family’s apricot brandy (pálinka in Hungarian); he’s known to share a sip with friends and regulars.
Rebecca Burkart – Johnny’s Golden Brick
As General Manager of Johnny’s, Burkart leads a team known for its ultra-creative monthly cocktail menus. Her detail-oriented approach causes her to focus on every aspect of cocktail creation – right down to finding the right element from the bar’s garden to garnish a drink. She says her favorite thing to do is present a ghost in a way that changes someone’s perception; Don’t be afraid to ask her about her favorite scotches.
Sarah Crowl – Rosie Cannonball
This seasoned bartender describes herself as a “ninja” who aims to serve without disturbing a diner’s experience. All of Crowl’s creations are primarily known for their zero-proof drinks and can be recognized by their beautiful presentations and balanced flavors that go well with the restaurant’s dishes. Her fondness for brandy and amaro is occasionally reflected in her cocktails, or customers can ask her to suggest something to round off their meals.
Shannon Currin – two headed dog
Currin says she has come a long way since she first sat behind the bar at Goro & Gun eight years ago. Customers will see how she makes beautiful drinks with fresh ingredients at Two Headed Dog and pops beer and pours shots in Lil ‘Danny Speedo’s Go Fly A Kite Lounge in the East End. With the aim of always challenging herself, she encourages other bartenders to sample as broadly as possible and take detailed notes because you never know which flavors will inspire you.
Zach Hornberger – Nancy’s Hustle
He may show a calm presence behind the counter, but Hornberger lets his drinks do the talking. Usually they are large, tart, and contain a hearty element that goes well with the restaurant’s creative menu. Hornberger has also pioneered, offering more zero-proof options for diners who want a flavorful drink without alcohol.