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'Cucumber Lime Elixir' takes Bar Chefs' competition at Taste of Vail

CREATED: 2006-04-08 06:45 PM


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

'Cucumber Lime Elixir' takes Bar Chefs' competition at Taste of Vail

VAIL, Colo. - Organizers of the 16th annual Taste of Vail have announced the results of its annual cocktail extravaganza, sponsored by Wine Spectator magazine.

Winning the highly-anticipated Bar Chefs Mix-Off, held Friday at Billy's Island Grill, in Lionshead, was Mike Baugh of Restaurant Kelly Liken with his exhilarating "Cucumber Lime Elixir," a mix of cucumber puree, fresh-squeezed lime juice and simple syrup laced with gin.

"It's fantastic to be picked the winner. I'm honored," said Baugh, who now can claim bragging rights as the valley's champion "bar chef" for a year. "This is more a team event, from the kitchen staff all the way to the bartenders."

A new breed of bartenders, "bar chefs" are "obsessed with using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients," said Don Gatterdam of Wine Spectator, 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 shifted 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 were 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 - were highly encouraged and had to be supplied by the bartenders themselves.

K.J. Williams of La Tour Restaurant was runner up Friday with his magnificent rum-based "Shooting Star," closely followed by third-place Todd McGruff of Sapphire Restaurant and Oyster Bar, with his spicy tequila-based "Peppered Don Julio."

"It's a lot of fun creating new drinks and turning people onto them," said La Tour's Williams, 35, who won last year's competition.

Other bartenders competing in the Bar Chefs Mix-Off included: Jen Ott of Terra Bistro, with her gin-based "Wasabi Passion with Ginger Candy"; Tim Sapire of the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, with his vodka-laced "Lemon Fizz"; and Bob McKown of Billy's Island Grill with his rum-based "Billy's Banana Banshee."

"This was a great opportunity for our local bartenders to show off their best stuff," said Jim Lay, local restaurateur and Taste of Vail's seminar coordinator for the past 10 years.

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 Taste of Vail, visit or call 970-926-5665.

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(Note: Recipes and high-resolution photos available upon request- SLW.)

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