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The Best Capital Region Cocktail Makers

March 1, 2019

There’s no reason to wait for the Times Union’s Best of the Capital Region. The results from that survey will be coming out later this month. But what will they really tell us? I shudder to imagine.

Years ago, AOA Greg asked me to write a story about the best donuts in the Capital Region. And I explained to him at the time, that the only way to do the story justice would be to eat all the donuts in the Capital Region.

So that’s what I did.

This is one of the reasons why I’ve been excited about Albany Distilling Company’s 3rd Annual Cocktail Competition. The best is chosen by a panel of judges, only after trying them all. Well, almost. The way this works is very much like the All Over Albany Tournament of Pizza. If you’re not familiar with the form, let me explain.

There are four rounds in each of the four corners of the Capital Region. And in these, top local bartenders will make a couple different drinks based on a specific product from the Albany Distilling Company’s line. The cocktails will be judged blindly, and the winner from each city will move on to the finals.

All of this starts on Monday. Actually, the first four events are every Monday in March.

March 4 the contest kicks off at 7pm in Schenectady inside the Backstage Pub.
March 11 brings the show over to Troy, where at 7pm things will kick off at Brown’s.
March 18 Saratoga Springs has its turn at 7pm behind the bar at Flatbread Social.
March 25 the competition returns to Albany for a 7pm start at The Hollow.

Then all the winners will assemble at Albany Distilling Company’s bar and bottle shop on Saturday, April 6 for the finals at 7pm.

Since this contest began, I’ve been eager to have a front row seat to report on the incredibly skilled people, all over the Capital Region, who are helping to elevate our cocktail culture. And this year, I’m finally going to be able to do that. After years of pestering my friends at ADCo, they have relented and given me a spot at the judges table.

This won’t be the first time I’ve judged a cocktail contest, but it is the first time I’ve judged one of such magnitude.

As much fun as the judging will be, being able to write the stories about which places sent which people is going to be even better. Because more than anything, I’ve been curious about who in the Capital Region is really trying hard, which places are putting in the extra effort, and where are the up and coming spots around the Capital Region to get a well made drink.

I’ve also been dying to know what creative cocktails have been presented at these competitions. What are the flavor combinations, which other spirits have been brought into the mix, how different techniques are being employed, and further details to help illuminate the growing and expanding local cocktail scene.

Because it is indeed growing. And getting a cocktail in the Capital Region is such a better experience today than it was when I first moved to the area. It’s been amazing to watch from afar, and I can’t wait to witness it up close.

Perhaps the best news is that this contest is open to the public. Anyone can come out and observe. There will be samples of the drinks made by the competing bartenders available to those who attend. Plus there will be ADCo drink specials those nights too.

Since I will officially be there in a Yelp capacity, the first member of the Yelp Elite Squad who comes up to me and says hi, will score a free drink at each of the outings. Since the judging is blind, I may be sequestered at some behind-the-scenes location. So finding me might not be so easy. But I promise to emerge, and hang out with those who come to witness this fantastic local competition.

Hope to see you there!

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