Team spirits

Competitive Drinking Dept.
By SCOTT KEARNAN  |  February 24, 2010

Up in Vancouver, the red, white, and blue are riding high on gold (medals that is) for feats of awe-inspiring athleticism. But on Sunday, February 21, Boston hosted Cocktail World Cup 2010, the first of 13 regional competitions held throughout the nation. The event brought together 10 of the city's best bartenders (hailing from high-end spots like the South End's Mistral, down to casual watering holes like Allston's White Horse Tavern) to award laurel crowns for uniquely crafted libations.

Cup events are organized by the United States Bartenders' Guild, and will ultimately send to New Zealand, home of sponsoring vodka brand 42Below, a team of three pouring patriots to represent America in the international competition from March 23 to 28. When they get to the land down under, these men and women will work at challenges that combine cocktail mixing with extreme sports, alternating between bartending and bungee jumping, jet boating, things like that.

"I'll pour anywhere I can. Under any conditions of gravity," laughed Aquitaine's Matthew Coughlin, one of the two regional winners declared on Sunday. The Boston competition went down at Bond, a swanky Financial District nightspot located in the former Federal Reserve Bank building. Each stationed bartender kept the signature concoctions flowing for guests bellied up to the beverage buffet. Coughlin's prep space was littered with eggshells from the whites used to make his Rosemary Sour, and freshly shaved lime zest resembling a hard-working craftsman's sawdust. A server from South End restaurant Masa held up a glittery sign to cheerlead her cocktailing colleague; Bond's DJ Mario pumped funky house beats that echoed off the ornate high ceilings; and the crammed guests comprised a milling fashion show of True Religion jeans and little black dresses. Sloshing drinks on to the Victorian carpet under the watchful, oil-painting eyes of our powdered-wigged forefathers, there was the sense of a high-school house party that had overtaken mom and dad's "Special Occasions" room.

But the spirits rose above the adolescent. Included in the party were three guest judges: award-winning Morgans Hotel Group mixologist John Lermayer, Sam Ross of NYC's Milk and Honey, and writer Lauren Clark. They judged each drink on criteria from presentation to technique, inventiveness to aroma, and eventually awarded the honors to Coughlin and Jason Brown of Sensing for his cocktail, Mr. Robinson, a mix of vodka, black tea, lemon, sage, and (more!) egg whites. The pair will head to the nationals in New York City on March 7 to compete against regional winners from Miami, Vegas, and Los Angeles, among others; and if they make the final three assigned to Team USA, they move on to New Zealand to take on all other countries in the competition's daredevil drink-making. It wouldn't be the first time Boston has made it that far: in 2008, Bobby Jones of Saint repped our city internationally.

Besides Coughlin's promise of gravity-defying antics, Brown says he's similarly poised for success. "I have experience in a wide variance of extreme activities," he offered cryptically. Could be good enough for another miracle . . . on ice.

Related: Photos: One Night in Boston 2010, Eatin’ good in Boston’s ’hoods, Mangia Pizza, More more >
  Topics: Food Features , Sports, Public Finance, Scott Kearnan,  More more >
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