Best of the Best in the Wine & Cocktail World

Awards have been given out lately to some deserving folks and it’s only fitting I recognize their accomplishments. Hat’s off to:

Alexander LaPratt (pictured right), who works for New York’s db Bistro Moderne, was the winner of the 2011 Best Sommelier in America title. The competition judged 30 candidates from 12 states over a two-day period. Contestants needed to prove they had a deep understanding of wine theory, excel in table service and be cigar knowledgeable. Detroit natie LaPratt’s resume includes a two year stint as the Cellar Sommelier at Napa’s famed French Laundry before moving to Daniel Boulud’s New York restaurant. For more information on the competition, visit the American Sommelier website.

Dante LoPresti of Mercadito Chicago’s Double A was the winner of the second annual Star of the Bar competition at the 2011 International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event. The contest, held in conjunction with the National Restaurant Show. It was hosted by Tom Colicchio, Bravo’s Top Chef judge and raised funds for the show’s educational foundation’s ProStart program which helps 90,000 students around the country prepare for careers in the restaurant industry.

The only requirement of the competition was that contestants use at least one Bacardi product in their drinks as Bacardi is the sponsor of the competition. It was LoPresti’s “Pink Lion” cocktail that won him the competition, a mixture of Cazadores Blanco tequila, Hibiscus liquer, Lillet blanc and simple syrup.

More than 100 students, under the direction of department dean Mike Hampton, logged in over 30,000 hours at the Food Network South Beach Food and Wine Festival to help raise more than two million dollars for the Florida International University School of Hospitality and Tourism. The annual event, held in February, is a fundraiser for money that is immediately reinvested in programs to enhance the school’s infrastructure and scholarships from students.

Three bartenders have won the Experience Cognac contest, a part of the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac’s new E-Learning platform, produced in conjunction with the Beverage Alcohol Research (BAR). The contest included a Q&A about cognac, followed by six short personal essay questions about the spirit. The winners were: First Prize-Chicago’s Carol Donovan, a mixologist and consultant and the owner of Intoxicatingly Fun Cocktails, who won an all-expenses paid trip to the 2012 International Cognac Summit in January; Second Prize- Katie Stipe, a mixologist at Manhattan’s Vandaag Bar; and Peter Vestino of Prospect in San Francisco. Both Stipe and Vestino received a scholarship to the five day BAR.


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