Eight bartenders from across the region competed for top honors at the 20th annual Rose Julep Cocktail Competition at Mellwood Art Center as part of the Kentucky Derby Festival’s “Festival Unveiled” event on Thursday, March 16. A panel of expert judges and the public chose the Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice winning juleps, respectively.Mixologist Em Sego of Louisville’s North of Bourbon took home the Judges’ Choice award for “The Scarlett Rose,” a unique cocktail that mingles rose petal infused Four Roses Small Batch with yellow Chartreuse, lemon oil infused Steen’s pure cane syrup, Bittermens Burlesque Bitters and mint.Mixologist Colleen McCarthy-Clarke of Martini Italian Bistro in Louisville claimed the People’s Choice title for “The Oriental Express,” a creative mint julep composed of Four Roses Small Batch, umeshu green plum wine, yuzu marmalade, grapefruit bitters, ginger, allspice, cloves, fresh cracked pepper, grapefruit bitters and mint.The top eight finalists who qualified for this year’s competition included:

  • Em Sego, North of Bourbon, Louisville, Ky.
  • SC Baker, Bar Expo, Louisville, Ky.
  • TJ Ghant, NoraeBar, Louisville, Ky.
  • Colleen McCarthy, Martini Italian Bistro, Louisville, Ky.
  • Bill Whitlow, Rich’s Proper Food & Drink, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Katie Sherman, The Break Room, Lexington, Ky.
  • Romondo Tatum, Jake’s Cigar Bar, Lexington, Ky.
  • Hannah Reid, Rackhouse Tavern, Lexington, Ky.

The event drew hundreds of people who sampled the competitors’ cocktails and voted for the People’s Choice winner.The judges scored the juleps based on aroma, creativity, taste and presentation.

Official competition judges included Kentucky Derby Festival CEO Matt Gibson, Kentucky Derby Festival Board Chair Ken Salvaggi, mixologist Jayma Neese, writer Sara Havens, Katie Molck with LOUToday, Erica Rucker with LEO Weekly, and Kathryn Gregory and Kirby Adams with Courier-Journal.

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