What happens when nine bartenders from across Louisiana come together? Jiggers are filled, ice is shaken and Jameson cocktails are poured. Then, one is presented with a big $1,000 check and named the winner of the LRA’s first ever Big Easy Bartender’s Bash.
Sponsored by Republic National Distributing Company and Pernod Ricard, the competition asked bartenders to create their very own cocktail using Jameson Irish Whiskey, Jameson Black Barrel, Jameson Cold Brew or Jameson Orange. The judges were looking for creativity, presentation, taste and recipe composition.
The Big Easy was represented by Greg Dase of Commander’s Palace, Latonya Scott of NOLA Art Bar, Taylor Bonds of Loa Bar and Chris Williams of The Bayou Bar. Riley Barber from Palmyre and VP of Libations Ray Ward from Mercy Kitchen came to show their skills from Lafayette. Lee Konopka of Zea Rotisserie & Bar in Covington came to represent the Northshore with an elegant cold brew cocktail, topped with shaved dark chocolate, and Jessica Theriot of Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux in Houma made a sweet & spicy cocktail, aptly named ‘The Spicy Irishman.’ In the end though, it was Avery Blanchard from The Cajun Saucer in Arnaudville who won first prize with his ‘Irish’ I was on Vacation cocktail.
Blanchard’s recipe used both Jameson Irish Whiskey and Jameson Cold Brew, with a mix of passionfruit honey, pineapple juice, lemon juice, orgeat and Bittermans Tiki Bitters. Cajun Saucer is a wood-fired pizza restaurant with a Tiki bar, part of the Bayou Teche Brewery in Arnaudville. Blanchard is known as the top ‘Tiki Cocktologist,’ and his skills shined during the competition. The judges saw that, and tasted it with every sip.
Sitting on the judging panel was Rhiannon Enlil. She has decades of bartending experience working for Erin Rose, and currently is a part of the French Quarter Caribbean inspired establishment Palm & Pine. The restaurant and bar honors food & drink of the South, with menus revolving around agave & cane spirits, New Orleans wines and regional beers.
During her time at Erin Rose, she had the opportunity to travel to Ireland and enroll in the Jameson Irish Whiskey Academy. It was through the program she broadened her knowledge on all thing’s whiskey.
“It truly made me feel like I was on a sunny beach,” Enlil said. “His drink was surprisingly refreshing, well balanced and beautifully presented. Avery is a bartender to watch, as his creativity shined bright in the competition.”
Blanchard came to partake in a good time, but didn’t expect to bring home the big check. When emcee Greg Reggio (Taste Buds Management/Zea’s Rotisserie) called his name as the winner, he was shocked.
“It was insane hearing my name called,” Blanchard said. “I truly didn’t expect it, but I am so honored.”
Chris Williams from The Bayou Bar came in second with his “Full Circle” cocktail. Located inside the historic Pontchartrain Hotel, The Bayou Bar has become his playground for mixing spirits. He says moving to New Orleans brought back his love of Jameson, and it influenced him to use local ingredients.
Originally from Boston, and living in New Orleans via NYC, Williams drew on the love story of his grandparents who met at Tulane in the 1950s. The drink reflected how he has come ‘full circle’ moving back to where his grandparents met and fell in love. Fig & honey syrup from The Cocktail Experiment was blended with El Guapo Bitters lemon cordial and Paradise Park American lager.
All the mixologists displayed great creativity, and passion for what they do. Though many did not know each other, they all clicked quickly. Latonya Scott of NOLA Art Bar even helped out a fellow competitor by sharing a jigger and glass. She enjoyed the company of so many talented mixologists, as did Theriot from Houma.
Theriot works for Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux as the Corporate New Restaurant Opening Bar Captain. She spends 19 days in each new restaurant setting up the bar, staging liquor and training new recruits on signature drink recipes. She is currently on her 16th opening right now, as Walk-On’s expansion continues across the Southern United States—most recently in Wichita, Kansas. She says seeing how other bartenders put together their recipes was eye-opening.
“It was fun to do something different and be able to get creative and make my own recipe,” said Theriot. “And I really enjoyed being able to see how different everyone’s thought process was on what ingredients paired well.”
The Big Easy Bartender’s Bash was produced by the LRA and held in conjunction with the LRA Showcase. Stay tuned to our social media platforms for news of our next competition.
Starting top left: Riley Barber (Palmyre), Ray Ward (Mercy Kitchen) Greg Dase (Commander's Palace) Chris Williams (Bayou Bar), Taylor Bonds (Loa Bar), Jessica Theriot (Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux), Latonya Scott (NOLA Art Bar) and Avery Blanchard (Cajun Saucer). *Not pictured, Lee Konopka (Zea's Rotisserie)
The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) was established in 1946 to advocate on behalf of the state’s foodservice and hospitality industries.