Bartender of the Year San Francisco Finalist Celebrates New Family Adventure in Winning Recipe

— January 23, 2018
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Heaven Hill Brands, announce first of six finalists for 2018 “Bartender of the Year”

BARDSTOWN, KY – Mix a strong character base with maturation, sweet and spice, and a dash of balance for Jorge Vargas-Baquedano’s winning recipe for both cocktails and family. Announced today as the Heaven Hill Brands and San Francisco finalist for the 2018 Bartender of the Year Competition, Vargas-Baquedano won first place, $1,000 and a trip to the finals at The Lodge on Sea Island, Ga. Vargas-Baquedano previously won the 2016 San Francisco semifinal, moving on to compete in the finals at the St. Regis Bahia Resort in Puerto Rico.

“The ‘New Adventure’ cocktail represents the warm and special time when my wife, the dogs, and me, play with baby Amelia before she goes to bed,” said Vargas-Baquedano, Lead Bartender at Jack Rose Libation House in Los Gatos, Calif. “It’s the special bond we want to create for her; the meaning of family.”

Watson Barry of Oakland, Calif. won second place and $500. Six semifinalists competed regionally in San Francisco on Sunday, January 21 at The Pacific Cocktail Haven. Bartenders competed in two rounds, first mixing the family-inspired cocktail from their preliminary submission, then creating an original cocktail fit from the menu of the host bar using at least 1.5 ounces of total of Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur, Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon, PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, or Rittenhouse Rye Whisky. Contestants and judges were then invited to a family dinner at Proper Hotel where Adam Rogers, editor of Wired magazine and author of “Proof,” led a discussion on the science of booze and the winner was announced

National Brand Educator for Heaven Hill Brands Lynn House, Bar Manager of Clyde Common & Pépé Le Moko Jeffrey Morgenthaler, and former National Beverage Director for the Mina Group and current Bartender for Pacific Cocktail Haven Brian Means judged the semifinalists’ cocktails and chose one finalist based on highest scores. Contestant skills and cocktails were scored on flavor, appearance, presentation, technical skills, use of sponsor brands, and adherence to judges’ guidelines.

More than 1,000 original cocktail recipes were submitted online nationwide beginning September 15, 2017. Preliminary entries required two original cocktail recipes, one rendition of a classic recipe, and one relating to family along with a short description of how the cocktail was inspired by their interpretation of family. The top contestant from each region will go on to vie for the title of Bartender of the Year and $15,000 at The Lodge on Sea Island, Ga. in June 2018. Finalists will be challenged on their full range of skills as hospitality professionals. Judges will be looking for the ultimate bartender who displays the total breadth and aptitude all bartenders aspire to embody.

Grounded in the original Bartender of the Year Competition hosted by Domaine de Canton starting in 2009, Heaven Hill Brands resurrected the competition due to strong demand from bartenders worldwide. Nathan O’Neill from the Nomad Bar in New York City was named Bartender of the Year in 2017, and Abigail Gullo of Compere Lapin in New Orleans won the inaugural competition in 2016. Visit the official competition website at for complete competition details.

New Adventure – Inspired by the concept of family
Crafted by Jorge Vargas-Baquedano


  • Rittenhouse Rye (2 ounce(s))
  • Amontillado sherry (.75 ounce(s))
  • homemade fig syrup (.25 ounce(s))
  • Angostura bitters (2 dash(es))

Add all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir. After, strain the cocktail into a Nick & Nora glass. Serve with black walnut & chocolate cloud essences coming from a glass with dry ice, perfuming the cocktail.

About Heaven Hill Brands: Founded in 1935, Bardstown, KY-based Heaven Hill Brands ( is the nation’s largest independent, family-owned and operated spirits producer and marketer and the world’s second-largest holder of Kentucky Bourbon. Heaven Hill’s diversified portfolio of brands includes Evan Williams Bourbon; Larceny, Elijah Craig and Henry McKenna Bourbons; Rittenhouse Rye Whisky; Burnett’s Vodkas and Gin; Admiral Nelson’s and Blackheart Rums; HPNOTIQ Liqueur; The Christian Brothers Brandies; PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur; Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur; Lunazul Tequila and Carolan’s Irish Cream Liqueur.



Lauren Cherry
Heaven Hill Brands

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