Brian Van Flandern, Third-Prize Winner
AW: As a professional mixologist, you travel to top restaurants, hotels and resorts to redesign cocktail programs and train staff in the art of mixology. What are some favorites that you’ve visited?
BVF: America and Great Britain are the leaders in cutting-edge mixology, followed by Germany, Australia, Spain, Russia and Canada. … But some of my favorite clients have been The World [Residences at Sea] ship, The Carlyle hotel in New York and Tiffany & Co.
AW: How did you end up with this career?
BVF: In 2004, I went back to college to finish my degree, and I took one last restaurant job. Little did I know that opening the Thomas Keller-owned Per Se restaurant would change my life. Working there taught me how to pair wine with food. I started to apply the same principles to cocktails, and in 2006 I was ranked the No. 2 bartender in the world. … In 2007 I opened up Creative Cocktail Consultants Corp. (www.mymixologist.com) and started to redesign cocktail lists, teach spirits history and do mixology for the best hotels and restaurants in the world.
AW: If you were to create a cocktail in memory of your Miami RW experience, what would be in it and what would you call it?
BVF: In honor of Neal’s win and the subsequent party in Miami, I'd incorporate Three Twins Ice Cream into a tequila-based cocktail. This is pretty darn tasty if you have a sweet tooth.
Don Julio’s Three Twins
1¼ oz. Don Julio Anejo Tequila
¼ oz. Pedro Ximénez (PX) sweet sherry
1 ½ oz. Three Twins Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream (melted)
¼ oz. aged balsamic vinegar (aged 8 years minimum)
¼ oz. agave nectar
½ oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Glassware: martini glass
Garnish: strawberry dipped in agave nectar and rolled in chipotle chili powder
Method: Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker with big ice cubes. Shake, strain and serve.
AW: No doubt you’re extremely selective when it comes to bars. What are your top three that you'd recommend?
BVF: There are far too many great cocktail lounges to narrow it down. But these three are high on my list — mainly because you simply tell the barman your favorite spirit (or least favorite), and he’ll make you an amazing drink:
PDT (Please Don’t Tell), a hidden speakeasy in New York’s East Village. Their bacon-infused bourbon Old Fashioned is phenomenal.
The Savoy hotel’s American Bar in London. Ask the head barman, Eric Lorincz, to create you a cocktail; you won’t be disappointed.
Finally, if you have the opportunity, visit Sean Muldoon at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast. Word of advice: Request a cocktail with a spirit that you normally shy away from, and don’t request a cocktail made with vodka — trust me.