By Talbert Toole
Bartenders across north Mississippi gathered together Thursday, Aug. 8, 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 selected liquor. For one bartender, his ability to “keg” his cocktail exceeded the competition and helped him attain the top award of the night.
Joseph Stinchcomb of Saint Leo Restaurant was awarded first place by the judges for his creative cocktail highlighting Jefferson’s Small Batch Bourbon.
Stinchcomb said his inspiration for his cocktail creation came from the concept of how ingredients work chemically, along with the fact that Mississippi is not known for keg cocktails.
Typically known as a heavy liquor, Stinchcomb was able to make his drink “light and airy” and drinkable for those who traditionally stay away from the dark liquor.
The idea for Stinchcomb’s drink was a play on deconstructing a Kentucky Mule. Bourbon served as the base while he added ginger, lemon and soda into the combination; however, Stinchcomb said each ingredient was added in different techniques to achieve his finished project. The unique take on the drink was achieved by adjusting the temperature to 34 degrees and then pumping Carbon dioxide (carbonation) into it which allowed the drink to become lighter and airy.
Although Stinchcomb’s complex recipe received the highest accolade, he said winning is not his type priority. What he favors most is the ability to experience what other bartenders are creating across the state, he said.
“It’s kind of cool to see people make cocktails from where they are and what their markets are like,” he said.
Stinchcomb has been the face of Saint Leo Restaurant’s bar scene for some time now. His achievements have given him recognization in the LOU community. Last year, he received the “People’s Bartender” award at the competition.
He said bartending is one of the many universal languages where stories unfold.
“You can go to Japan and not speak Japanese but have a good cocktail,” he said. “It allows you to speak through your emotions, and bartending to me is an emotional thing. It carries weight, it carries history. I’m glad I get to be a torchbearer for it.”
As Stinchcomb advanced from the People’s Award to top Iron Bartender, Snackbar’s Taylor Mauer won the “People’s Bartender” award this year.
For more information on this year’s Art-er Limits Fringe Festival, visit the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council’s website.