Uppers & Downers Irish Coffee Cocktail Competition
A gang of 70 folks lined up outside of Saint Lou’s Assembly. Spring was ready to break through, keeping the crowd slightly comfortable on the late March evening. But Winter was holding on like a child gripping their handlebars during their first bike ride. Inside the bar, a smorgasbord of Irish coffee cocktails awaited; there was no better way to warm up the peckish crowd.
The doors opened and guests flooded across Saint Lou’s back bar. They sipped on eight different recipes at Good Beer Hunting’s Uppers & Downers Irish Coffee Cocktail Competition. Seven mixologists from across Chicago and one contestant from LA crafted their own interpretation of an Irish coffee by using Powers Irish Whiskey and Counter Culture Coffee as their bases.
“Powers was the first spirits company we chatted with about the fest a few years ago, and they were thrilled to participate,” says Michael Kiser, founder of Good Beer Hunting. “Counter Culture really appreciated the experimentation and the multi-roaster espresso bar concept, which in coffee is entirely unique."
The barkeeps designed and pre-batched their cocktails to serve the hundred-plus guests that filled the back bar. Each contestant carved out moments of cocktail artistry with garnish strains, ice-cream toppings and even with a splash of Coca-Cola. Aaron Minnes of Punch House scooped his cocktail out two punchbowls–that looked customary for a brunch hosted by your grandmother–then topped each drink with a healthy mountain of whipped cream and shaved nuts.
Guests and a group of esteem judges had two hours to stroll through the back bar and outdoor patio, while sipping on cocktails before casting their vote for their favorite recipe. “This year we talked a lot about the comfort and coziness that a great Irish coffee can give,” says Kiser (who was one of the judges). “Especially when it's hot in the middle, just the right amount of boozy, and the cream provides that decadent creaminess on top of it all.”
The accumulated public of cocktail perusers voted in the form of cold, hard cash. Each barkeep had a tin bucket on his/her table to collect tips for a charitable donation to Planned Parenthood. The Irish coffee innovator with the most amassed tips at the end of the contest would earn the title: The People’s Champ.
As the last remnants of boozy ice-cream and whipped cream were guzzled out of plastic cups and the votes were tallied, champions were ready to ascended into Uppers & Downers greatness.
With more than $400 dropped in his “Grand Prize Game” bucket of the total $1,000 raised for Planned Parenthood, Adam Daniels of Revival Cafe Bar swung the imaginary “People’s Champ” belt around his waste. As the for the champion of the competition, Tait Forman strolled in like Villanova in the ’85 championship game as an (8) seed taking down number one Georgetown. The proprietor of the LA spot Bibo Ergo Sum traveled across the country with cocktail tools and idea to enhance the fruity-quality of the coffee to defeat the seven Chicagoans.
“I’d be lying to say if I didn’t think about this quite a bit,” says Forman after taking the title. “I brought my syrups, fortunately they didn’t break on the plane ride over here, and then there was a last minute run around to Whole Foods but fortunately we’re here.”