In the spirit of Napoleon’s epic battles, Mandarine Napoléon, the 19th century citrus liqueur created for Napoléon Bonaparte, brought to Tales of the Cocktail this year the battle of all battles – man vs. woman in the first annual Mandarine Napoléon Imperial Battle of the Sexes in which the women were crowned victorious.
In this unique event, which took place on Wednesday, July 17 at the Napoleon House, some of the best male and female bartenders from around the country were paired against each other and created their very own signature Mandarine Napoléon cocktails. The 200 guests in attendance were invited to try all the cocktails and cast their ballots for their favorites. There was a lot of friendly banter going on between the teams at the event; the male bartenders wore shirts that said “No Ma’am” and the women created a slideshow with hilarious and embarrassing photos of the men. At one point a spontaneous chant broke out among guests in attendance cheering the women on. Guests also wore buttons supporting their favorite Emperor or Empress. In the end, the women were victorious and hailed as the conquerors.
Representing the victorious women were:
- Shel Bourdon from The Dead Rabbit in New York and winner of the 2012 Last Slinger Standing Ultimate Shake Off competition during February’s Arizona Cocktail Week, the Arizona Bourbon Battle and Best Mixologist of 2012, as well as regional finalist in the Speed Rack National Competition, where she placed 5th overall
- Lynnette Marrero, president and founder of Lupec NYC, an organization to promote women bartenders while raising funds for women’s charities, co-creator of Speed Rack, a national cocktail competition featuring top female bartenders that raises money for breast cancer education, prevention and research, and who also creates bar programs in New York through her company Drinksat6
- Naomi Schimek, beverage director at The Spare Room in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and vice president of the LA chapter of the USBG; and Yael Vengroff, bar manager at Harvard & Stone in Hollywood and 2012 Speed Rack champion who early in her career was the youngest and second female bartender at Audrey Saunders’ iconic Pegu Club and head bartender at New York’s acclaimed Painkiller.
In the men’s corner were:
- Jeff Bell, head bartender at PDT in New York who was named 2013 StarChefs.com Rising Star Mixologist, one of Zagat’s 2013 30 Under 30 and Diageo World Class U.S. 2013 Bartender of the Year, representing the U.S. in the Global World Class Finals, where he made it to the final round of eight bartenders vying for the coveted title of World Class Bartender of the Year 2013
- John Lermayer, head bartender at The Regent Cocktail Club at the Gale South Beach who has dominated the national and international competition circuit since winning the Bar Chef Challenge at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008
- Steve Schneider, one of the principal bartenders at Employees Only in New York, former U.S. Marine who in the past year has set records in a global speed bartending competition and won an international cocktail competition in New Zealand, 2013 Star of the Bar at the International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event in Chicago and is starring in Hey Bartender, a newly released feature film about bartenders and cocktail culture.
- Dev Johnson from Employees Only made a special guest appearance and offered guests laid-backs of Mandarine Napoléon to cleanse their palettes between cocktails.
On Saturday, July 20, brand owner Marc de Kuyper hosted The Imperial Breakfast at the Vieux Carre Room at the Hotel Monteleone. Originally created for Emperor Napoléon, Mandarine Napoléon has existed since 1892 but just recently made its way back into prominence in the United States after the De Kuyper family acquired the brand a few years ago. Marc De Kuyper, 11th generation of De Kuyper Royal Distillers, discussed why the liqueur was the beverage of choice for the French emperor and treated guests to a breakfast fit for an emperor, all prepared with Mandarine Napoléon. Guests were also treated to coffee cocktails mixing Mandarine Napoléon with unique blends of cold brew coffee made by bartender extraordinaire Elad Zvi, founder of Bar Lab and the renowned Broken Shaker in Miami, a 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program.