I'll Drink to That

Top Austin mixologist crowned the Most Imaginative Bartender in North America

Austin mixologist crowned Most Imaginative Bartender in North America

Austin bartender Justin Lavenue Roosevelt Room
Austin's Justin Lavenue won the title of Most Imaginative Bartender during a national cocktail competition. Photo by Julian Bajsel

An Austin mixologist has been crowned the Most Imaginative Bartender during an intense cocktail competition that brought in top talent from across the United States and Canada.

After two days of drink-slinging in Las Vegas against 28 of the best bartenders in North America, Austin's Justin Lavenue of The Roosevelt Room walked away with the win — making him the first Texan to take home the title.

"I never imagined that I'd be standing here tonight receiving such an honor. All 28 of us take our craft very seriously, and there were some extraordinary drinks here tonight, so to be selected from the group makes the honor even that much greater," said Lavenue in a release.

The ninth annual United States Bartenders Guild contest — sponsored by Bombay Sapphire gin and GQ Magazine — was a mixture of highlighting the popular gin brand and uncovering hidden bartender talent. Lavenue represented both aspects perfectly with his winning concoction, The Poet's Muse, which features Bombay Sapphire, Poet's Cordial, citrus blend, and rose/mushroom water.

Famous mixologist and special guest judge Tony Abou-Ganim lauded Lavenue's ability to showcase the gin's natural flavors while also adding his own personal flair.

"On the one hand, the bartenders have to make a unique cocktail that represents their personal style. On the other hand, the drinker has to know that this is a Bombay Sapphire cocktail that highlights the 10 botanicals in the gin," said Abou-Ganim. "That's a pretty tall order, but Lavenue's The Poet's Muse hit all the marks. It's a great-looking drink that was beautifully presented and, most importantly, it tastes delicious."

The Poet's Muse wasn't the only cocktail that got Lavenue to the top. The Austin bartender dominated the regional round in Houston last month with L'Etoile de la Nuit, a sweet drink inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's iconic The Starry Night that incorporates house-made dry rose vermouth, absinthe, unripened blueberry juice, charcoal powder, and foie gras-washed French elderflower liqueur. The concoction that got him noticed in Las Vegas and sent him to the finals was his Vyrnwy to Vegas, which included fino sherry, maraschino liqueur, and Martini Bianco-infused Bombay Sapphire.

With this Most Imaginative Bartender win under his belt, Lavenue will go on to compete as the North American representative in the global finals in 2016. The Austinite will also be featured in GQ Magazine's annual Men of the Year issue in December.

If you're intrigued by Lavenue's winning cocktail recipe, try making it at home:

The Poet's Muse by Justin Lavenue
2 ounces of Bombay Sapphire gin
0.75 ounce of Poet's Cordial
0.75 ounce of citrus blend
6 drops rose/mushroom water
Garnish with lime peel