The Rhode Island Woodford Reserve “Manhattan Experience” hosted by Brown-Forman took place at Newport’s Caleb & Broad on March 14. Six local bartenders competed for the chance to be named state champion and move forward in the next round of the national competition at the Woodford Distillery in Tennessee. Competitors were required to make two cocktails: a version of the Manhattan and an original cocktail, both using Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey. The panel of judges, who used a points system for scoring, included Ben Terry, United States Bartenders’ Guild Rhode Island (USBG RI) chapter Treasurer and Craft Brand Manager, Origin Beverage Co; Steve Foohey, State Sales Manager, Brown-Forman; and Parker Luthman, Bartender, The Eddy and 2017 RI Manhattan Experience Winner. Christina Mercado, Head Mixologist, Grace Vanderbilt, took the 2018 title with her two cocktails, Morning Manhattan and Roots. One of 40 semi-finalists from around the country, Mercado advanced to the next phase at the Woodford Reserve distillery in Tennessee for a week of brand education and continued competition. The top six finalists from Tennessee were slated to compete for the grand prize at the finale event in New York City on April 23: title of “Master of the Manhattan,” an all-expenses-paid trip to London and a feature on Liquor.com.
Photos by Laura Widness.