With an incandescent smile and a wicked-sharp performance, Sarah Briggs took the honors at the of the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience competition in Portland at the Ace Cleaners on Monday night, February 29th.
It wasn’t easy. This was a hard-fought competition with several impressive versions of Manhattans, from the classic to the nouveaux, along with original cocktails devised by each of the contestants.
Dani Clark, Robbie J. Wilson, Rob Savage, Joshua Merrion, Sarah Briggs, and James Pierce showed off the Portland cocktail scene at its best in the competition. The talented six showed an impressive grasp of the history and tradition of the eponymous cocktail, the knowledge of what makes it a classic, and the creative impulse to tweak it towards sometimes subtle, sometimes profound new directions.
The eager and supportive audience saw some attention-grabbing presentation techniques and a tour-de-force of competence and confidence with all six bartenders. It was an evening of excellence, with accolades for each and every one.
But, as with all competitions, there has to be a winner—well, in this case, two winners, since there was an audience favorite and a judge’s favorite. Turned out to be Ladies Night at PDX at the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience.
Dani Clark, sleek and classic in a slinky black dress and gleaming pearls (!) and styling a grapefruit, pear, and vanilla Manhattan, was the audience darling, taking home the People’s Choice.
Sarah Briggs, beaming with undisguised pleasure, took the top honors, pulling down the aggregate high points for her masterfully executed and achingly classic Perfect Manhattan; her daring original of boozy delight; and immaculate presentation skills. Sarah will now advance to the next level of the national competition..
The triumvirate of startender judges—accomplished bartenders and former award-winners themselves—were enthusiastic about Sarah and her potential for advancement. Jordan Felix, Bar Manager at the Multnomah Whiskey Library, Nic The Bartender Nye of the Knock Back, and Banjo Amberg, Clyde Common bartender and last year’s winner of the PDX Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience sent her on to represent Portland at the national level.
Sarah is eager to tackle that next competition. Meanwhile, until she goes on the road for further victories, you can find her at The Richmond Bar on Division, likely pouring out some big, bold, boozy concoctions across the bar. No one does those bodacious cocktails like Sarah; just try her award-winning Woodford Reserve Manhattan or her standout Lock, Stock and Three Smoking Barrels and you’ll see what we mean.