The Mesilla Valley welcomed the third installment of the state bartending competition known as New Mixico! New Mixico is a collection of some of the best ladies and gentlemen from around the state who make their living creating cocktails of all kinds. There is no doubt what these talented folks do is art that a person can imbibe and enjoy.
Written by DANIEL GONZALES
Photography by JOHN CONNELL
The competition at both Hacienda de Mesilla and La Posta had 18 of New Mexico’s finest dining and drinking establishments represented, all gearing for the title of State Bartending Champion, those bragging rights, and a check for $1,000.
New Mixico was attended by many out of town and local fans cheering on their favorite person behind “the stick”. However, whether you enjoy the traditional shot and a beer or the latest version of an Old-fashioned, New Mixico provided intrigue, competition, comradery, and above all entertainment for everyone that came.
Broken Down Into Three Parts,
The Showdown, Sudden Death, and finally, the Gran Patron Championship. Although a competition of this sort takes a while to go down, nearly four hours to be exact, the folks at Pitre Kia and Jeep provide “Safe-Rides” to all on-goers and competitors if they needed a ride back and forth from the venues, as well as if anyone needed a ride home.
The Showdown Round
—consisted of a system of elimination that began with all eighteen bartenders who were in heats of four or five by random selection. Each competitor was given three base ingredients that they had to use. They were allowed three other ingredients from a communal pantry to create the drink they thought was best. The bartenders came from as far north as Santa Fe and as far south as the Mesilla Valley to compete.
The Silver Round—This contained Patron Silver, Liquid Alchemist Passionfruit Syrup, and roasted green chile, and the drinks that were concocted all had the touch of originality that showed each competitor’s style. After the round, twelve competitors remained.
The Roca Round
Patron Roca is a line of tequila that involves an age-old process of using a large stone or rock (Roca) wheel to press the cooked agave plant to release the liquid within the leaves that begins the distillation process of tequila. The Roca Round contained Patron Roca Reposado, M’Tucci’s Pineapple/Rosemary Shrub, and Arnold Brother’s fresh pecans. (Shrubs are vinegar and sugar-based additives, like a bitter, that are used to influence a drink, but not dominate the overall flavor).
The Extra Anejo Round
Just last year, Patron Spirits offered a fourth option in their original line of tequilas, Extra Anejo. According to the laws of tequila production, a Blanco, Silver, or Plata tequila is aged 0-2 months in oak, while a Reposado tequila is required to be aged 3-6 months in oak, and any label that proclaims its tequila to be an Anejo must be aged at least 12 months in oak. However, an Extra Anejo must spend a minimum of 36 months in oak to obtain this classification.
This final round of the Showdown contained the ingredients of Extra Anejo Patron, Fever Tree Bitter Lemon Tonic, and ground cinnamon. This round of eight had so many unique and dynamic cocktails, and the competitors knew that if they won their heats, they were off to the Gran Patron Championship, and all the runners-up knew they were headed to Sudden Death.
The Sudden Death
—The bartender that scored the highest in this round was given a spot in the Gran Patron Championship. This round consisted of three ingredients that were unbeknownst to any of the competitors before the competition unlike any other round. The ingredients consisted of La Posta’s Barrel Select Anejo Tequila, blueberries, and fresh mint leaves.
The Barrel Select Program is one where an individual account selects an individual barrel of tequila from a group of barrels that are deemed excellent enough for selection. This barrel is designated and bottled specifically for the account that has selected it, and there is no other tequila like it in the world. La Posta is currently on their sixth select barrel. They feature their Barrel Select Anejo in their famed drink, “La Patrona” but I recommend, for you tequila lovers, to try it neat and sip it slowly to enjoy!
Zee Eskeets, representing the Pueblo Harvest bar in Albuquerque was the Sudden Death winner. Zee along with the four winners of the other heats went into the Gran Patron Championship.
Ed Krause from Rancher’s in Ruiodoso took third in the Gran Patron Championship and impressed everyone with his innovative techniques and flavors. Ed was the first in three years of New Mixico to represent the eastern part of the state.
Chope’s from La Mesa entered the Gran Patron Championship as a team of two, Ashley Rivera and Danielle Grijalva. These two young ladies practiced and created cocktails throughout their heat to impress the judges enough to propel them into a position to give them a chance at the Grand prize.
Jessica O’Brien took second place after eliminating her heat one by one with not only great tasting drinks, but style and personality that are completely unique to her. Sister Bar in Albuquerque is where you can find this artist creating cocktails and the mood and aura around her is something to behold.
The winner of New Mixico 2018 goes by the name of Rhiannon Hardin who works at the ultra-lounge Azul inside Hotel Encanto right here in Las Cruces. “Rio” as her regulars call her was an inspired bartender throughout the day making it past her heat, and past the toughest competition that New Mexico had to offer. Rio displayed taste profiles from coffee and smoke to spicy and sweet. She showed both humility and determination as she careened her way through the competition, to win the title of the New Mixico 2018 Gran Patron Champion. Rio took home $1,000 prize, two VIP passes to New Mexico Cocktails and Culture worth $500, and the hand engraved trophy from Porter Ink House.