The Black culinary community was recently celebrated during a beautifully boozy search for a standout mixologist and BOSSIP had an exclusive look at what went down.
Black Restaurant Week which travels city to city spotlighting flavors of African-American, African, and Caribbean cuisine nationwide as well as restaurateurs, bakers, caterers, and chefs, closed out their “Power of the Palate” National Cocktail Competition, sponsored by Maker’s Mark in Atlanta.
The competition was a nationwide hunt for the country’s best Black bartender via a bracket-style tournament of cocktail connoisseurs hailing from the likes of Chicago, New York, Houston, and Detroit.
Earlier this month, “Power Of The Palate” culminated at ATL’s The James Room where finalists Nigal Vann and Tresa Johnson went head to head.
The master mixologists were judged by special guest judges, Rob Samuels (Maker’s Mark Cheif Distillery Officer), Samara Davis (Black Bourbon Society Founder), and BOSSIP’s own Danielle “Dani” Canada.
The judges scored each bartender on a variety of factors including presentation, creativity, and overall palate, and Nigel and Tresa were tasked to create craft cocktails during timed rounds while storytelling their creative process.
Tresa wowed the judges with her liquid refreshments especially, “The Black Rose Manhattan”, her take on a classic Manhattan that she paired with roasted lamb and a butternut squash puree for a sophisticated date night.
Rob Samuels dubbed Tresa’s drink “the best Manhattan he’s had in his life.”
As for Nigal, his “What Do You Do For Fun?” drink that he paired with fig basil flatbread filled with aphrodisiacs, was a standout
and his “Ode To Her” inspired by often ignored women in the spirits industry, was a celebratory sensation.
After much consideration, the judges chose Nigel as the winner of the “Power Of The Palate” competition, and the “best Black bartender in America” was awarded a $5,000 prize.
Tresa was also awarded $2,500 for her hard work and her mastery of her craft.
Nigal told Black Restaurant Week that he’s often inspired by tunes to create his competition-winning concoctions.
“I get inspired by song titles and music,” said the Chicago-based bartender. “I know some people who make a drink and then name it, but in most cases I’m more inspired by a song name.”
He also detailed how his love of bartending was initially spurned by his discovery of a new creative outlet, and he immersed himself in books to learn everything about the craft of cocktail making.
“I spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on dozens and dozens of cocktail books,” Nigal said about his early days. “But then I really got to understand flavors, memorized a lot of cocktails, and when you do that you see patterns and recipes are really easy to manipulate.”
Congratulations to both of the finalists!
Watch Nigal Vann win Black Restaurant Week’s “Power Of The Palate” competition below.