The Betsy Hotel’s rooftop was the site for a pair of exclusive cocktail competitions that brought together some of the best mixologists in Miami and across the U.S.
Presented by 42 Below vodka, the challenge – appropriately named Ready Steady Shake – was a combination of an Iron Chef contest with reality television judging.
Each bartender had a short period of time to use random ingredients that reside in a “mystery box” to produce a more delicious drink than their competitors. They had to create the drink using a specified 42 Below flavor, and they had access to a comprehensive back bar containing the most widely available liqueurs, spirits, juices and fruits.
So the challenge didn’t necessarily reward the top bartender, but the one who could think quickly on his or her feet and produce an appetizing cocktail with at least two of the four “mystery” ingredients provided, and in a short amount of time (usually between 3 to 5 minutes).
Each drink is then tasted and judged by a trio who graded on presentation, taste, and cleanliness, among other criteria.
“In Ready Steady Shake, the winner is not necessarily the best bartender, but the one who spends months strategizing the drink and can source the most unusual ingredients and equipment,” said Raj Nagra, event host, a renowned mixologist, and brand ambassador for 42 Below. “A competition like Ready Steady Shake is cutting-edge for the craft. It’s a long way from the routine business of tending bar, which is about making the best drink possible to suit your customer, as quickly as possible, in a busy environment.”
The first Ready Steady Shake event held in early June pitted a handful of mixologists from some of Miami’s top drink spots – The Florida Room at Delano, Living Room at W South Beach, the Fontainebleau’s Lobby Bar, and the B Bar at the Betsy, among others.
After a single-elimination style format in which several bartenders were stymied by the “mystery box”, the finals came down to Paul Sevigny and Angela Laino, both from The Florida Room. In the end, Angela Laino was the winner, chosen for the fresh tastes of her cocktails and her consistency throughout the competition.
The second Ready Steady Shake event took place in early August, and this time a few of Miami’s best competed against a field of 20 bartenders from across the country, representing cities such as Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
Two heats of 10 bartenders were whittled down to the finals, and Greg Seider, from Summit Bar, in New York City; emerged victorious with a drink he named the “Dill ‘n Tomas.”
Despite the hot, sticky outdoor weather conditions, both events provided mixologists a chance to network, share nuances within their craft, and relax in a setting where their talents were rewarded among their peers. The tight bond among the mixology community was apparent at each event, and should continue at future Ready, Steady, Shake competitions.
The Florida Room's Paul Sevigny (left) and Angela Laino compete at Ready, Steady, Shake at The Betsy Hotel. Photo: Gina Weaver