By Talbert Toole
Bartenders from across the northern region of Mississippi gathered together Thursday, Aug. 9, at The Powerhouse to compete in the annual Art-er Limits Fringe Festival’s Iron Bartender competition in partnership with the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.
The competition challenges bartenders to shake, swirl and strain a specialty cocktail with a secret ingredient.
Returning champions from Snackbar and McEwen’s faced challengers from restaurants in Tupelo, Oxford and Starkville, which included Jinsei Sushi, Nautical Whimsey, Saint Leo, Stella, Green Roof Lounge, Grit, Oxford Grillhouse, Woody’s and O’Charley’s in Tupelo, and Restaurant Tyler in Starkville.
Last year McEwan’s took the winning title. However, this year the tides turned when last year’s runner up, Jinsei Sushi, crafted two different cocktails to win the title.
The experts behind Jinsei’s cocktails were Jake Loyer and Maddie Manansala.
Loyer said the two cocktails were inspired from the merging of his two favorite loves in the bar industry—bitter aperitifs with a tiki drink movement. He said his first drink, the “El Nacional,” was a twist on the classic Boulevardier—a classic cocktail based on the Negroni—drink.
The Boulevardier was named after a monthly magazine from Paris, which is run by Ersinke Gwynne.
“We sought out to find the monthly magazine subscription that was from the Dominican where Kirk and Sweeney is produced,” Loyer said. “That was El Nacional.”
Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Rum was Jinsei’s appointed secret ingredient this year. Loyer combined the rum with a sweet vermouth, Campari, and a house charred pineapple gomme syrup. The ingredients were strained over a big ice cube and finished with a lime wheel and grated nutmeg for garnishes.
“I’m happy to say I think we were mostly successful,” Loyer said.
Loyer said it was great to be considered to compete again and especially to take home this year’s title.
Although Loyer didn’t get to try as many competitor’s cocktails as he would have liked but said he really enjoyed second place winner Mason Payne of Green Roof Lounge’s cocktail along with Joe Stinchcomb of Saint Leo’s drink — who received the People’s Bartender award.
“As always the Snackbar team of Ivy McLellan and Taylor Mauer had a great set of cocktails,” he said.
Loyer said it is incredible to see all of Oxford come out and support the restaurants and bars with such a great cause and said Oxford is so lucky to have an amazing community of bartenders in such a small town.
“We as bartenders are blessed to have an even more amazing community of patrons that come and drink with us, listen to us talk about our passions and taste our creations,” Loyer said. “Last night was an example of all that, and it was great to see people from all ages and walks of life come out and support [us.]”
Jinsei Sushi’s Iron Bartender Cocktails:
1 oz Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Rum
1 oz Cinzano 1757 Sweet Vermouth
1.5 oz Coconut Oil Washed Campari
.5 oz House Charred Pineapple Gomme Syrup
Stirred, Strained over a big ice cube
Lime wheel, grated nutmeg Garnish
2 oz Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Rum
1 oz Lime
1 oz Aperol
1 oz House Raspberry Orgeat Syrup
Shaken, Strained over ice
Lime wheel garnish