Bartender of the Year Miami Finalist Crafts Homage to Indian Upbringing

— February 13, 2019
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Heaven Hill Brands, announce second finalist for 2019 “Bartender of the Year”

BARDSTOWN, KY – Kabir Akbani, bartender at MO Bar + Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, Miami, announced as the Heaven Hill Brands and Miami finalist for the 2019 Bartender of the Year Competition. Akbani won first place, $1,000 and a trip to the finals at Half Mile Farm in Highlands, North Carolina.

In the second round of the semifinal competition, contestants created the inspired cocktail submitted as a recipe in the preliminary round. Inspired by his upbringing in India, Akbani crafted the “Indian swizzle” incorporating flavors from his home (see recipe at end of release).

“Since I was raised in India, I wanted to create a cocktail with Indian flavors,” said Akbani. “Mango and tamarind are very popular in India, so I wanted to use that and create a nice, refreshing, tangy Indian cocktail.”

Shawn Newman of Prato in Winter Park, Fla. won second place and $500. Six semifinalists competed regionally in Miami on Monday, Feb. 11 at Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Co. Bartenders competed in three rounds, the first two featuring the classic cocktail and inspired cocktail from their preliminary submission. For the final round, bartenders created a custom drink for a fictional bar menu using a minimum of 1.5 ounces of at least one Heaven Hill brand not previously featured in one of their cocktails   including Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur, Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon, PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, and Rittenhouse Rye Whisky, as Dubonnet Rouge Aperitif, Sacred Bond Brandy, or Lunazul Tequila. Contestants and judges were then invited to a family dinner at The Jim and Neesie and professional development with Julio Cabrera, world-class Cantinero-Bartender and owner of Café la Trova in Miami, before the winner was announced. Cabrera created a cocktail utilizing Heaven Hill products and spoke to his inspiration behind it, as well as the journey to reach this point in his career and advice for improving in cocktail competitions.

National Brand Educator for Heaven Hill Brands Lynn House, Owner/Bartender of Pouring Ribbons Joaquín Simó, and Cabrera 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 1,100 original cocktail recipes were submitted online nationwide beginning September 15, 2018. Preliminary entries required two original cocktail recipes, one rendition of a classic recipe, and one relating to an inspiration, along with a short description of how the cocktail represents a deep inspiration to their life. The top contestant from each region will go on to vie for the title of Bartender of the Year and $15,000 at Half Mile Farm in Highlands, North Carolina from June 17-20, 2019. 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. Harrison Ginsberg of The Dead Rabbit in New York City was the 2018 Bartender of the Year and will return as a guest judge for the finals. Ginsberg joined an impressive rank of past champions, including Nathan O’Neill from the Nomad Bar in New York City who was named Bartender of the Year in 2017, and Abigail Gullo of Compere Lapin in New Orleans who won the inaugural competition in 2016. Visit the official competition website at for complete competition details.

Indian Swizzle
Crafted by Kabir Akbani


  • Dubonnet Rouge Grand Aperitif (2 ounce(s))
  • PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur (11 dash(es))
  • Mango puree (0.75 ounce(s))
  • Pineapple juice (0.75 ounce(s))
  • Lime juice (0.5 ounce(s))
  • Simple Syrup (0.5oz ounce(s))
  • Tamarind Chutney (1 ounce(s))

Add all ingredients in a highball or swizzle cup, except the PAMA. Add crushed ice and swizzle. Top off with more crushed ice and add 11 dashes of PAMA. Garnish with mint.


Lauren Cherry
Heaven Hill Brands

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