Champion Named in Heaven Hill Brands 2018 “Bartender of the Year”

— June 21, 2018

BARDSTOWN, KY – Heaven Hill Brands and announced today the champion of the 2018 Bartender of the Year competition. After a nationwide search to find the top bartenders across America, Harrison Ginsberg of The Dead Rabbit in New York City is the 2018 Bartender of the Year and the recipient of $15,000.

“It feels really good. Winning definitely gives validation to what I do. Plus, the whole idea of connecting with people from around the country is the best part,” said Ginsberg. “In the case of my cocktail concept, I talked about seed saving and passing seeds from generation to generation. I weaved that into the Shapira family and passing whiskey traditions to each generation. The authenticity and just how genuine Heaven Hill acts is a clear message for us as new members of the family.”

The week began as the eight finalists descended upon The Lodge on Sea Island, Ga. for a family welcome dinner. Don Lee, designer and educator at Cocktail Kingdom, began the second day of with an educational workshop on the relationship between flavor components in a cocktail. Group activities then followed with dock fishing, crabbing, and skeet shooting on the island.

The final day was composed of a two part “beverage program” challenge. The first challenge was administered by Don Lee and specifically tested their technical understanding of what comprises well-balanced cocktails. Contestants had to demonstrate ability to create well-balanced cocktails, describe what was wrong and how to correct an unbalanced drink. The second challenge asked competitors to create an original cocktail utilizing ingredients available in a pre-determined pantry. In addition to explaining their inspiration and thought process, as well as how the cocktail represents the locale and the brands, each competitor presented the pour cost of the cocktail and an explanation of the functionality of the cocktail as a menu item. The final day was broken down into several sections, including selection of ingredients, concepting, ingredient preparation, recipe development, and presentation. Judging was based on the quality of the cocktails, the adherence to the guidelines, the technical performance, and the overall presentation.

More than 1,000 original cocktail recipes using Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur, Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon, PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, and Rittenhouse Rye Whisky were submitted online nationwide beginning September 15, 2017. 49 semifinalists then competed in San Francisco, Austin, San Diego, Portland, Denver, Charleston, Chicago, and New York City from January 2018 through end of April 2018. The top contestant from each region moved on to vie for the title of Bartender of the Year and $15,000 at The Lodge on Sea Island, Ga.

“After a year of impressive innovation and commitment to excellence, we are excited to welcome these top industry professionals into the Heaven Hill family,” said Kate Latts, Vice President Marketing for Heaven Hill Brands. “Congratulations to Harrison Ginsberg whose passion and professionalism raised the bar for our 2019 contestants.”

National Brand Educator for Heaven Hill Brands Lynn House, Bar Manager of Clyde Common & Pépé Le Moko Jeffrey Morgenthaler, and Owner/Bartender of Pouring Ribbons Joaquín Simó, and 2018 Bartender of the Year Nathan O’Neill judged the final eight bartenders. Finalists were challenged on their full range of skills as hospitality professionals. Judges were 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.

The following bartenders competed in the 2018 Bartender of the Year Finals:

Name City Regional City
Adam Robinson Portland Portland
Arthur Boothe Sanford, Fla. Charleston
Austin Carson Denver Denver
Harrison Ginsberg New York New York
Jorge Vargas-Baquedano Los Gatos, Calif. San Francisco
Julien Calella Venice, Calif. San Diego
Madelyn Kay Chicago Austin
Mony Bunni Chicago Chicago

ABOUT HEAVEN HILL BRANDS: 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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