Saturday: Cocktail Gladiators Do Battle at Drink

Lou Bustamante
Rachel Ford.
​Tomorrow night at SF Weekly's Drink party at the Fairmont, there'll be an epic battle between bartenders, live on stage, with Combier liqueur as the main ingredient. Tastes of the competitors' cocktails will be provided to attendees, along with all the spirits being used in the drinks, poured neat. It should be a great way to experience alchemy in action.

Behold the tale of the tape on tomorrow's four competitors:

Rachel Ford
While she has an appreciation for the local produce in drinks, a recent trip to New York reignited Ford's interest in spirit-forward cocktails. As she explained to SFoodie, in New York "weather and proximity makes produce more difficult to acquire, so bartenders are forced to create more cocktails using spirits alone.

Brian MacGregor.
​Since returning, I have placed more of an emphasis on the stirred and spirituous when I come up with new ideas because I am excited by the challenge of finding new ways to put existing flavors together." She'll have a lot to play with at the event. At the end of this month, the Ford moves to N.Y.C. and she doesn't plan on leaving S.F. with a loss.

Brian MacGregor
He got his start in 2007 working at Absinthe with Jeff Hollinger and Jonny Raglin (now at Comstock Saloon), eventually moving on to Jardinière, where he worked with Thad Vogler (Bar Agricole), and now to the soon-to-open Locanda project from Delfina's Craig Stoll and Anthony Strong. Given that MacGregor's dad was also a professional bartender, you can expect a few old-school tricks up his sleeve. Also favoring the spirit-driven cocktail, since, MacGregor says, they "challenge the expectations behind what an all-booze drink should taste like."

Lou Bustamante
Joel Teitelbaum.
Joel Teitelbaum
Running the show behind the bar at Zero Zero, Joel takes a chef's approach to the bar, building textures and playing with flavors. He told SFoodie he enjoys making "drinks that use ingredients to complement one another and create an alchemy instead of just 'sweet' or 'sour' or 'bitter.' I love drinks where you taste all the ingredients individually as well as the flavor they make together."

Lou Bustamante
Dominic Venegas.

Dominic Venegas

Having defined the cocktail styles at Range, Gitane, and Bourbon and Branch, Dominic will be a force to reckon with in Saturday's contest. Helping to build the current selection of spirits at John Walker Spirits Co. has made Venegas' already prodigious knowledge of spirits even more dangerous.

Lou Bustamante tweets at @thevillagedrunk. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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