Vermont Crowns Bartender of the Year

After a  whole lot of mixing and shaking Vermont crowned its Bartender of the Year at Killington April 12. 

“Father and Son” was the name that Matt Farkas, a bearded, tattooed bartender from Winooski gave the drink he was making up on the spot last night, April 12, in Killington.

Farkas, who works at Winooski’s Mule Bar and Caledonia Spirits was under pressure: he had only three minutes left to craft a cocktail made with the odd mixture of ingredients in his “mystery bag:” white miso, cinnamon toast, tango tangerines and Smuggler’s Notch Litigation Wheat Whiskey as well as anything else he chose to add. Matt’s father, Steve Farkas, a longtime bartender at Bromley Mountain, watched from the sidelines and Matt’s wife of one month, Christie, stood by his side as he chopped, tasted and stirred in a frenzy.

At stake: The title of Bartender of the Year.

Farkas added in some Campari, strawberries, sage, and grapefruit juice; tasted, then mixed. It was there.

Around the room, bartenders from Brattleboro to Greensboro were shaking and mixing like mad — all part the second annual Vermont Bartender of the Year contest, put on at Killington’s K1 Lodge by Hotel Vermont, the Vermont Distillers Association and Vermont Ski + Ride to kick off the Vermont Tourism Summit.

On the "grab" table were a wide variety of ingredients.
On the “grab” table were a wide variety of ingredients.

“We have amazing spirits in Vermont and we wanted to raise awareness of the quality of craft cocktails here,” said organizer Cameron Keitel of Hotel Vermont. “We’ve tried to keep up at Hotel Vermont: we stock about 40 Vermonts spirits now but they are cropping up so fast we may run out of room.” Hotel Vermont’s Cameron Keitel and Ashley Wolf along with Farkas, are also the driving forces behind the growing Vermont Bartenders’ Guild, an offshoot of the National Bartenders Guild and helped spearhead the event.

The contest was limited to 12 bartenders and used local spirits from sponsoring Vermont distilleries including Middlebury’s Appalachian Gap, Stonecutters and Whistle Pig; Saxton River Distillery in Brattleboro, Green Mountain of Morrisville, Caledonia Spirits in Greensboro; Silo of Windsor; Mad River Distillers and Smuggler’s Notch Distillers.

Defending champion Martha Mack of Mary's at the Inn at Baldwin Creek with Sas Stewart of Stonecutters and Justin Hyjeck of Homestyle Hostel
Defending champion Martha Mack of Mary’s at the Inn at Baldwin Creek with Sas Stewart of Stonecutters and Justin Hyjek of Homestyle Hostel

Guests were able to sample all the concoctions in the first round before the field was narrowed to the final five, who were given the “mystery bag” and then allowed to raid, first come, first served, a table filled with potential ingredients, ranging from celery and olives to pineapple and herbs.

Even though she didn’t make the final cut, Michelle Morciglio was glad she competed. “It’s just fun to be here and I love bartending,” said Morciglio who moved to Killington from New York five years ago to ski and has been tending bar at Mogul’s. “I studied bartending before I moved here and it’s great to see this bring all of Vermont’s talent together.” Her concoction: a Slow Strawberry Fizz.morciglion

Drew Kacik of Saxton’s River Distillers also moved back to Vermont for the snow. “I grew up here and have lived all over the country and missed it,” he says. He now regularly snowboards and bartends at Mount Snow and this past year he finished third in the Mountain Dew Tour for the 35 and over category.

But perhaps no bartender in the room could have been as tightly tied to Green Mountains as Matt Farkas. “I’ve been a bartender at Bromley since I can remember,” said his father Steve. “Matt grew up there, he’s an amazing snowboarder. I taught him to bartend and now he’s teaching me.”

Matt Farkas and his dad, Bromley bartender Steve Farkas.
Matt Farkas and his dad, Bromley bartender Steve Farkas.

And when the judges announced the winners — third place to Sydney Stockman from Burlington’s Pizzeria Veritas, second place to Jory Reeves of Winooski’s Waterworks and first place to Matt Farkas—tears streamed down Steve Farkas’ face. The drink Matt named “Father and Son” was the winner.

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.