NY Winners Named in USBG Most Imaginative Bartender Competition

The United States Bartender Guild’s 12th Annual Most Imaginative Bartender Competition named its two American winners last night from the New York region.

Samantha Casuga from The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog, and Samuel Willy from Locanda Verde (both pictured atop with their winning cocktails), beat out other top bartenders from New York in the annual competition that’s presented by Bombay Sapphire gin.

Later this summer, Casuga, Willy and 14 other top mixologists from across North America will head to England – home of Bombay Sapphire and its Laverstoke Distillery – to vie for the 2018 world title.

In advance of the finale, all 16 finalists will head to New Orleans this July for Tales of a Cocktail. For the first time in the competition’s history, the finalists will undergo a challenge at the annual trade festival that will account for a portion of their overall score before heading to England in September.

Over the last two days, ten of the New York region’s top bartenders presented cocktails to the panel of judges. The second and final day of the competition invited New York locals to NoMad’s Innside where they sampled each competitor’s cocktails and learned tips and tricks to help expand their at-home mixology skills.

As the evening winded down, Samantha’s “Neobiota” and Samuel’s “The Journey” cocktails was officially named as the evening’s Most Imaginative based on flavor, appearance, presentation and imagination.

Check out Casuga explaining her cocktail philosophy below, which includes using invasive species as ingredients.

Invasive Species as Cocktail Ingredients from kyle swartz on Vimeo.


Created by Samantha Casuga

1 ½ oz. Bombay Sapphire
¾ oz. Lemon juice
¼ oz. Maple syrup
½ oz. Blackberry-mulberry syrup
¾ oz. Neobiota vermouth

Shake and strain in coupe glass. Mist with floral mist.

The Journey

Created by Samuel Willy

1 ½ oz. Bombay Sapphire
¾ oz. Lager Syrup*
¾ oz. Lemon juice
¼ oz. Rooibos infused Suze*
½ oz. Eggwhite
2 Dashes absinthe

*Rooibos infused Suze:
Infuse 6 oz. of Suze with 1 oz. of Rooibos tea for 30 min.

*Lager Syrup:
– Reduce 12 oz. of Brooklyn lager to half with 1 rosemary sprig, 5 thyme sprigs and the zest of 1 lemon.
– Add 6 oz. of hot water and 12oz of sugar.
– Remove the rosemary, thyme and lemon once the sugar is completely dissolved.

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