Bartender of the Year Miami Finalist Looks to Moments of Solitude for Winning Cocktail

— February 3, 2020

Heaven Hill Brands, announce second finalist for 2020 “Bartender of the Year”

BARDSTOWN, KY – Justin Levaughn, Bartender at The Courtesy in Orlando, was announced as the Heaven Hill Brands and Miami finalist for the 2020 Bartender of the Year Competition. Levaughn 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. Levaughn crafted the “Dawn Patrol,” inspired by his search for solitude in days filled with social interactions, featuring Rittenhouse Rye and Sacred Bond Brandy (see recipe at end of release).

“As a bartender we are experts in social interaction, but as a result our moments alone can be rare,” said Levaughn. “I combat this by surfing alone early in the mornings as a way to reset. I deeply appreciate these moments of solitude and take in every second of it. This cocktail encompasses the senses of my morning search along the beach with coffee in hand deciding which place will become my day’s escape.”

Tatiana Rotari of Pescado in Rosemary Beach, Fla. won second place and $500. Levaughn and Rotari were joined by four other semifinalists as they competed regionally in Miami on Monday, January 27 at Café La Trova. 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 well as Dubonnet Rouge Aperitif, Sacred Bond Brandy, or Lunazul Tequila. Contestants and judges were then invited to a family dinner at Café La Trova and professional development with Julio Cabrera, Cantinero & Founder at Café La Trova. Cabrera spoke about his journey from Cuba to the United States, and how bartending competitions allowed him to achieve his dreams through learning and growing.

National Spirits Specialist and Portfolio Mixologist 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. Contestants’ skills and cocktails were scored on flavor, appearance, presentation, technical skills, use of sponsor brands, and adherence to judges’ guidelines.

More than 1,150 original cocktail recipes were submitted online nationwide beginning September 15, 2019. 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 15-18, 2020. 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 and with a goal of supporting growth, education and awareness in the bartending community. Justin Ware of Night Shift in Houston was the 2019 Bartender of the Year and will return as a guest judge for the finals. Ware joined the ranks of esteemed past winners: Harrison Ginsberg from Crown Shy in New York City was named Bartender of the Year in 2018, Nathan O’Neill from the Nomad Bar was named Bartender of the Year in 2017, and Abigail Gullo of Ben Paris in Seattle won the inaugural competition in 2016. Visit the official competition website at for complete competition details.

Dawn Patrol
Crafted by Justin Levaughn


  • Rittenhouse Rye (1 ounce)
  • Sacred Bond Brandy (1 ounce)
  • Cuban coffee coconut cordial  (.5 ounce)
  • Averna (.5 ounce)
  • Absinthe  (Bsp  rinse)

Add all ingredients into mixing pitcher. Add ice and stir until properly diluted and fine-strain into Nick and Nora. Express lemon peel, manicure, pin and with dusted mint.


Lauren Cherry
Heaven Hill Brands

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