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Cognac Connection Challenge Winners Announced

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Cognac supports US bartenders, awarding ten thousand dollars and a virtual trip to the region #CognacConnection 

October 12, 2020 – The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac  (BNIC)—the entity promoting, protecting and developing the Cognac  Geographical Indication and culture—is thrilled to share the results of the  Cognac Connection Challenge bartender competition, co-sponsored by Speed  Rack and VinePair, that received over 120 entries.  

The Cognac Connection Challenge was created to support US bartenders  during the pandemic and give them the opportunity to share their passion  for mixing with cognac. Ten winning bartenders will receive a $1,000 cash  stipend and virtual trip to Cognac, France. 

The expert judge panel— Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix of Speed Rack, Cognac  Educator Kellie Thorn (Beverage Director of Hugh Acheson Restaurants) and  VinePair spirits writer Tim McKirdy—selected 20 semifinalist cocktails to re create and blind taste. Ten bartenders best showcased why cognac works well  in cocktails and were selected as winners:  

  1. Meghann Allred, Left Bank Bar & Restaurant — York, PA 2. Mara Bethel (no bar affiliation) — Atlanta, GA 
  2. Lance Bowman, Maya Hospitality Group — Charlotte, NC 4. Jesse Cyr, Foreign National — Seattle, WA 
  3. Chelsea DeMark, Quill at the Jefferson Hotel — Washington, DC 6. Jena Ellenwood, Dear Irving — New York, NY 
  4. Anna Giordano, Longway Tavern — New Orleans, LA
  5. Chelsea DeMark, Quill at the Jefferson Hotel — Washington, DC
  6.  Jena Ellenwood, Dear Irving — New York, NY 
  7. Anna Giordano, Longway Tavern — New Orleans, LA
  8. Britt Ingalls, Silver Lyan — Washington, DC
  9. Lauren Paylor, Silver Lyan — Washington, DC
  10. Jessica Pomerantz, Black Rooster — West Columbia, SC 

*Winners listed in aphabetical order

Speed Rack co-founders and spirit luminaries Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero commented, “We were  honored and excited to partner with the BNIC for the Cognac Connection campaign and share the  joys of cognac while supporting our bartender community. The creativity of our community inspired us  during the education and the competition. We were thrilled to get so many wonderful entries.” 

Bartenders entered the challenge by submitting an original cognac-based cocktail recipe, sharing their  inspiration for the cocktail and what they’d learned about the spirit through the process. Recipes were  judged on originality, creativity, technique, taste and appearance. Entrants also earned points by attending  a virtual educational seminar, watching Instagram Lives, and sharing their cocktails on social media. 

“As a Cognac educator, it’s rewarding to see that so many bartenders around the country have embraced  cognac as a cocktail base,” shared Kellie Thorn, who also led the bartender webinar. She continued, “It  wasn’t easy selecting the final 10, but what a delicious process!” 

The Cognac Connection Challenge, a pillar of the virtual Cognac Connection campaign, aimed at  providing support during uncertain times and gave professional bartenders across the US the opportunity  to share their skills and passion for mixing with cognac. Each winning bartender will receive a $1,000  cash stipend and virtual trip to the region to dive deeper into the unique world of Cognac. 

A digital recipe book with the ten top cocktails will be available this fall on VinePair.com and the official  Cognac Connection website. Winning bartenders will also be profiled on @CognacUSA social channels.  

Visit CognacConnection.com for further updates and information about all things cognac

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