The Bolder Life: Competing Cocktails

Published on: October 17th, 2011

Master Chef/Proprietor, Alec Schuler, must be doing something right. He’s opened three successful Boulder eateries in the past three years with a crowd-pleasing combination of elegant Italian cuisine and innovative handcrafted cocktails.

Schuler’s recent venture, Amaro Drinkery Italia, conveniently shares the same 27th and Iris address in the same buzzing North Boulder neighborhood as its sister restaurants—Arugula Bar e Ristorante and popular breakfast/lunch spot, Tangerine.

Although Amaro is fresh off of their official grand opening, they generously invited in a large crowd of cocktail aficionados on Sunday night to make up the People’s Choice vote in the 303/Amaro Cocktail Competition, featuring cocktails conceived and concocted by some of Boulder’s best-know mixologists. Tyler Anderson of Salt the Bistro (big winner of the 303/Amaro Cocktail Contest), Greg Van Wagner of the close-to-reopening, Oak at Fourteenth and Bianca Huggins of Amaro all stood out with their unique, carefully crafted representations of their skills.

In an appropriately dimly lit room with a steady stream of catchy beats mixing in the background, six guest bartenders duked it out for local bragging rights, serving guests cocktails with names like “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and the “Hanky Panky”. Bitters, (Amaro’s namesake in Italian), was the most popular drink ingredient and guests were invited to dine on an assortment of Amaro’s small plate menu items which were available to enhance the sampling experience and give guests a break from a steady stream of cocktails mixed with a healthy dose of local distillery, 303’s vodka, gin and mouthwatering whiskey. In a room tastefully decorated with artistic collages of antique corkscrews and inviting furniture, I took a walk down mixology lane and sampled drinks with everything from frothy egg whites and nutmeg to simple syrup and jalapeno peppers to bitters and coffee liqueur.

The mind of a good mixologist is filled with chef-like notions. Creating, tasting, re-tasting and reconfiguring recipes until they reach their full potential. And thankfully, Boulder has created a safe place for recipe experimentation. Amaro’s Cocktail Contest wasn’t the first opportunity to gather the great minds of local mixology chef’s. Earlier this year, 303 Vodka held a competition to find the best mixologist in Boulder, and cocktail competitions stacked with Boulder favorites are becoming popular all along the Front Range.

If you missed the cocktail contest on Sunday, it’s not the end of the world. Amaro features over 36 handcrafted cocktails that are served to you warm, cold, or smokin’ with components consisting of everything from caramel vodka, artichoke liqueur, fever tree ginger beer and cat daddy Carolina moonshine.

And Amaro Drinkery Italia isn’t just the perfect place for a cocktail competition. It’s also the perfect place to visit to get your weekend shenanigans started or finish with a delicious, unique cocktail handcrafted by some of the best mixologists around.

You can find Amaro, Arugula Bar e Ristorante and Tangerine in the Diagonal Plaza in North Boulder.

Tyler Anderson’s Winning Cocktail Recipe:
Big Willie Style

1.5 oz 303 Vodka
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Luxardo Amaro
1 oz Raw Sugar Simple Syrup
3 Slices of Cucumber
Garnished with Fresh Serrano Pepper

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