Long Road Distillers is proud to be the first distillery in the history of the city of Grand Rapids. Our take-no-shortcuts approach is the guiding principle in crafting our spirits and in developing our cocktails. When crafting our spirits, it is paramount to create each of them with honesty, integrity and transparency. We don’t source spirits, we source ingredients!
The Taking the Long Road Cocktail Competition is a platform to increase bartender’s knowledge by providing education about what makes Long Road spirits so unique and authentic while enabling them to showcase their talents to the community through the creation of inspired cocktails. Long Road Distillers is looking for the bartender who embodies the philosophy of Taking the Long Road and doing things the right way! And, they’ll have a shot at winning the $500 cash prize!
The first Taking the Long Road Bartender is a master of their craft. Someone who has extensive knowledge of their ingredients (especially Long Road spirits) and who knows how to artfully craft a well balanced yet bold cocktail. And they are a bartender who knows service, guest experience and presentation are as valuable as the cocktail in the glass.
Phase 1: Bartenders shall submit to a panel a detailed cocktail recipe and cocktail name, color photo of the prepared drink, tasting notes and a brief written story about how the inspiration, development and profile of their final cocktail were crafted by Taking the Long Road.
Phase 2: Finalists will be selected from the submitted cocktails. Each finalist will be invited to the Repeal Day (December 5) Taking the Long Road Competition to be held at Long Road Distillers. Each finalist will then bring their cocktails to life for the live audience and esteemed judging panel. A winner will be selected as the Taking the Long Road Bartending Champion.
Each finalist will receive a bottle of a Long Road Distillers spirit of their choice.
Nate Cohn grew up in Muskegon Michigan and started bartending while going to college in 2000. He’s an avid traveler and touring drummer for the band Mustard Plug. He’s worked for Essence Restaurant group since 2007 and has been bartending at Grove since 2013. He’s a lover of the art of drink, music, and culture.
The Cocktail: Heffron Hot Toddy
“Taking the long road can often be a cold one and this drink was crafted to warm you up after a long time out on that road. I love seasonal drinks and the inspiration for this drink came from the need to highlight what can be done with warm/hot spirits. It seems to me that there are such an abundance of cold drinks on cocktail lists these days, and that we’re neglecting an entire amazing class of drinks that truly showcase the ingredients of fine crafted spirits in a way that chilled drinks can never do. Also, since we’re hearty midwesterners, and winters are often rough, it’s important to warm the souls of our guests in their coldest and darkest moments.
To me, this toddy represents taking the long road by using Long Road Red Winter Wheat Gin as the base spirit instead of a darker spirit like a whisky or rye. I also love your cherry brandy and the wonderful aromatics it produces The name pays homage to Heffron Farms since Long Road sources both the red winter wheat and the tart cherries for the two spririts used in this drink at Heffron Farms. Crafting and sourcing all the ingredients yourself and then supporting your local farmers and economy is what Long Road is all about. This drink intends to pay a warming tribute to taking the long road.”
The Finalist: Maureen Di Virgilio, The Green Well Gastropub
Maureen Di Virgilio has worked for a diverse range of bars and restaurants (and one brewery) in the Grand Rapids area. She loves being a part of the city’s vibrant craft beer and cocktail scene, and participates in the GR chapter of the United States Bartending Guild. Maureen is currently a server and bartender at The Green Well.
The Cocktail: Bitter Apple
“Inspired by the classic combination of bison grass vodka and apple juice, this refreshing long drink is equal parts bitter and sweet, with juicy, fruity notes on the front of the palate and a spicy, floral aftertaste from the Fuggle hops used to infuse the LR vodka. The LR vodka provides plenty of body to compliment the diverse flavors and the rhubarb binds everything together. No garnish, just a well-chilled glass and large, glacier-style ice cubes.”
The Finalist: Rob Hanks, Reserve Wine & Food
Rob Hanks is the Bar Manager at Reserve Wine and Food. Inspired by the kitchen’s constant use of seasonal, local ingredients of the highest caliber, he strives to bring this to the bar as well.
The Cocktail: The Sandlot
“Inspired by a Negroni Sbgliato, The Sandlot brings spice and length to one of our favorite classics.”
The Finalist: Duncan McCargar, SideBar
Duncan is currently slinging cocktails and bad puns at SideBar, an 18 seat cocktail lounge in the basement of downtown Grand Rapids. Previously Head Bartender at San Chez Tapas bistro he now spends most of his free time Reading, loafing, and snacking about town.
The Cocktail: Cytherea Sour
“I never was one for Aquavit, as it was strange and Scandinavian. That being said, it isn’t like me to shy away from foreign flavors either so I bought a bottle of the stuff. According to the bottle, it was shipped to the equator and back to improve the flavor and give it a kiss of ocean air. I poured it neat and warm, I swirled it, smelled it, sipped it, and hated it. The bottle sat gathering dust and cobwebs for the next year; it may still be knocking around in a cabinet somewhere. So when I heard the then fledgling Long Road Distillery was making their own, I was skeptical. I assumed it was a gimmick. Maybe they figured they’d make something no one else in the area is using and set themselves apart. I was wrong about Long Road, and I was wrong about Aquavit. The savory and cereal flavors have become a mainstay in my “barsenal,” and I want to expose as many people to my new Scandinavian paramour as I possibly can. With that in mind, I set about to blend the distinct and familiar American flavors of Bourbon, with Aquavit. I have always been a fan of rosemary, it may be my favorite flavor to a fault. Bruto Americano from St. George has wonderful notes of lavender, rosemary, almost a spirit de provence so to speak. Those flavors have been a favorite of mine as of late for blending into both whiskys and aquavit. Adding a charred rosemary sprig adds a smokey undertone and complements the savory aspects of both the aquavit and the amaro. Whipped with egg white in the traditional sour style and finished with rosemary for garnish it is light sweet and savory with floral notes and a hint of evergreen. Named after the goddess Cytheria, or Aphrodite as she is better known, who is said to be born from the ocean clothed in nothing but a garland of rosemary.”
The Finalist: Rick Muschiana, The Søvengård
Rick is the co-owner and operations director at The Søvengård. His past experience includes time in the craft beverage industry at Brewery Vivant and Virtue Cider, and a host of food and beverage establishments in Michigan, Chicago, and Los Angeles. He and his wife Kelly have two boys and call Grand Rapids’ West Side neighborhood home.
The Cocktail: A Walk in the Woods
“A Walk In The Woods has become a calling card at The Sovengard in our short 3 months since opening. The inspiration for this drink came from our philosophy of promoting local and seasonal ingredients meshed with a Scandinavian spirit. We feel this matches well with Long Road’s ethos of “taking the long road”, and grain to glass distilling. The name is a metaphor from the whimsical idea of walking through the forest and picking up random wild things that grow along the way to make something delicious. You must get out into nature, see things growing, and visit farms to get a real feel for what’s going on.
The flavor profile in this cocktail is all about the push and pull of the herbal qualities of Aquavit, and what we do to compliment and contrast the strong flavors of this “odd duck” of the liquor world. The recipe stays nearly the same, but we rotate the fruit puree based on what’s fresh and delicious for the season. Using aquavit is exciting to us, both from its historical significance in Scandinavia, and in the way it has traditionally lent itself to food and celebratory events. To have some of such high quality being produced by a local distiller is a true gem.”
The Finalist: Zac Williams, JW Marriott / SIX.ONE.SIX Restaurant
Zac Williams is the Lead Bartender and Restaurant Supervisor at Six.One.Six Restaurant at the JW Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids. He has worked in the industry for 10+ years and loves surprising people with outlandish cocktails made with weird ingredients.
The Cocktail: Dwight & Wendy
“I have been working with beets a lot lately and decided to try this recipe out. Originally had used aquavit, but decided that the Wendy lasted longer on the palate and complimented the shrub as well. The name comes from the character Dwight on the office and his love for beets, and of course the Wendy from the spirit I used.”