The National Restaurant Association announces a new element to their annual Star of the Bar competition. 

The Association will host a series of regional mixology competitions to identify semifinalists from Atlanta, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and San Diego to participate in this year’s event. The winner of the annual Star of the Bar Competition receives a $5,000 prize.

For the challenge, bartenders from each market will craft a cocktail using the award-winning and fastest growing tequila in the U.S. Casamigos Tequila, available in Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo. Privately owned by George Clooney and longtime friend, bar, and restaurant mogul Rande Gerber, along with Discovery Land Company CEO and founder Mike Meldman, Casamigos is exclusively imported and distributed in the U.S. by Star of the Bar sponsor Sidney Frank Importing Company. 

One semifinalist per market will be selected during a two-hour long live competition judged by a panel of media, previous Star of the Bar champions, and cocktail personalities. Cocktails will be evaluated based on flavor, originality, presentation, and use of sponsor spirit. Additionally, judging will be based on the following criteria: 25 percent technical skills, 50 percent taste, and 25 percent sales appeal.

To enter, contestants may fill out an online submission form either ahead of the live qualifying event, or in-person on-site. Each contestant will mix four of his or her cocktail for judge sampling. Winners will be declared at the conclusion of each qualifying event.

Winners of each of these regional competitions will go on to compete in the semifinals of the Star of the Bar Competition during BAR (Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants) at NRA Show on May 17th in Chicago. From there, three finalists will compete live at Restaurants Rock, the official after-party of the NRA Show and BAR on Sunday, May 17, for the title and $5,000. The competition aims to elevate local talent from these six markets, selecting one mixologist in each location to represent their city in the semifinals and finals at the annual trade show.

The competition kicked off last week in Atlanta where bartender Madison Burch of modern American restaurant Seven Lamps took home the prize, winning a flight to Chicago for the finals in May and the chance to win a $5,000 grand prize. Her winning cocktail was called “Once More with Feeling” and combined Casamigos Tequila with Fresno chili-infused Sepp Zweigert, lime zest, Orgeat, and Scrappy’s chocolate bitters. The event will continue in Chicago on March 9 at Homestead on the Roof at 6 p.m. The complete list of dates and locations is as follows:

  • Monday, March 2: Atlanta
  • Monday, March 9: Chicago
  • Sunday, March 15: San Diego
  • Sunday, March 22: San Francisco
  • Monday, March 23: Las Vegas
  • Monday, March 30: New York City
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