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'Bar chefs,' cigars and whiskies broaden Taste of Vail's flavor

CREATED: 2006-03-26 11:48 AM


Media contact:
Stephen Lloyd Wood
Media liaison
16th annual Taste of Vail
(970) 949-9774

'Bar chefs,' cigars and whiskies broaden Taste of Vail's flavor

VAIL, Colo. - Sometimes, for some people, there's just nothing better than a handcrafted cocktail, or perhaps a premium whiskey paired with a fine cigar.

Two seminars next month in Vail focus on those flavors, providing both education for the really serious and fun for the merely curious during the 16th annual Taste of Vail, benefiting Vail Valley charities for 16 years.

On Thursday, April 6, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at The Tap Room, in Vail Village, Cigar Aficionado magazine presents Cigars & Whiskies, a Global Review, sharing expertise on selecting a whiskey to match your favorite smoke. Participants - men and women - can taste and compare the striking contrasts among a wide variety of fine cigars and how they pair up with the world's great whiskies, whether small-batch American Bourbon or blended or single-malt Scotch. Three brands of fine cigars are on offer, as are four brands of "super premium" whiskies from around the world, including the best from Scotland and Ireland, as well as Japan, Canada and the United States.

"In essence, this brings education, fun and entertainment together. It's not a traditional tasting; it's more party-style," says Don Gatterdam, vice president of custom publishing for Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator magazines. "If you like brown spirits and fine cigars, this is the place to be."

Then on Friday, April 7, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Billy's Island Grill, in Lionshead, Wine Spectator magazine presents Taste of Vail's annual cocktail extravaganza. This year it's called the Bar Chefs' Mix-Off.

"We try to do something different every year and bring in a good cross-section of bartenders who'll present new and exciting drinks," says Jim Lay, local restaurateur and Taste of Vail's seminar coordinator for the past 10 years. "This is a great opportunity for our local bartenders to show off their best stuff."
A new breed of bartenders, "bar chefs" are "obsessed with using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients," says Gatterdam, and "their visually exciting and delicious creations are essentially the new first course to a great dining experience."

In seminar format, the Bar Chefs' Mix-Off shifts the spotlight onto bartenders as artists producing cocktails as a form of cuisine that's as much an art form as food served by top chefs. Participating bartenders will be supplied with super premium bourbon, vodka, gin, tequila and rum, as well as standard back-bar setups. Additional, specialty ingredients and pre-preparations - exotic juices, fruit purees, infusions and garnishes - are highly encouraged and must be supplied by the bartenders themselves.

Six local bartenders - K.J. Williams of La Tour; Michael Braugh of Restaurant Kelly Liken; Todd McGuff of Sapphire Restaurant & Oyster Bar; Jen Ott of Terra Bistro; Eddy Ahmad of Grouse Mountain Grill; and Tim Sapire of the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch - will compete for prizes, as well as bragging rights as the valley's champion "bar chef."

"It's a lot of fun creating new drinks and turning people onto them," says Williams, 35, of La Tour, who won last year's competition with his dazzling French Cosmopolitan.

Both seminars are included in Taste of Vail's Full Event package. Tickets for each seminar can be purchased individually, however, for $35.

Taste of Vail is a charitable, nonprofit organization. Over the past 15 years, the festival has contributed more than $300,000 to Vail Valley Charities; and in 2005, in conjunction with Ritz-Carlton, the Taste of Vail donated $13,000 to the Hurricane Katrina relief fund.

The festival was created in 1990 by a group of Vail Valley restaurateurs as a marketing event to showcase the resort's world-class restaurants. Now the internationally famous community boasts more than 20 Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants - the most of any resort community in the United States. This year, as many as 5,000 attendees and volunteers are expected to participate in the 16th annual Taste of Vail, with chefs from more than three dozen local restaurants and winemakers and/or owners of five dozen wineries from around the world participating.

For more information about the 16th annual Taste of Vail, or to buy tickets, visit or call 970-926-5665.

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