Vail bartender is Colorado’s ‘Most Imaginative Bartender’ | VailDaily.com

Vail bartender is Colorado’s ‘Most Imaginative Bartender’

Caramie Schnell
cschnell@vaildaily.com

VAIL — Tacy Rowland doesn't like banana flavor. But that didn't stop the Vail bartender from incorporating banana liqueur into a cocktail at a recent cocktail competition in Las Vegas, showing that she's a consumate professional when it comes to her craft.

Each year Bombay Sapphire and GQ magazine team up to find the country's Most Imaginative Bartender. Rowland, the beverage director at Bol in Vail, won the coveted title for Colorado in August with a drink she aptly calls "The Vegas Cocktail," which is on the cocktail menu at Bol currenly. In September, Rowland headed to Nevada to compete in the finals with 10 co-workers from Bol in tow, ready to cheer her on.

After the first round in the competition, Rowland was among the top 15 who progressed to the second round, held in a television studio off the Vegas Strip.

It was during that "Chopped" style challenge — complete with a mystery ingredient — that Rowland incorporated banana into a drink.

"We didn't know what we'd get until we got into the room," Rowland said about the secret ingredient. "Then we had 12 minutes to come up with a new cocktail and make it for the judges."

When the mystery ingredient was revealed to be butterscotch chips, Rowland's heart sank.

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"It was terrifying," she said.

She would have never considered pairing gin and butterscotch flavors.

"But I guess that was the point," Rowland said.

Rowland made a cocktail using Bombay Sapphire, banana liqueur, Benedictine — a French liqueur with a distinct herbal flavor — and egg white. She melted the butterscotch chips into a syrup using coconut milk.

"I served it all in a coffee cup with fresh-grated cinnamon on top," she said. "It was good. I actually don't like banana, so it's not one I made for myself but made for others. It seemed to go over well."

So well that Rowland was one of five people who progressed to the next challenge, held the next evening at the lavish XS Nightclub in the Encore. There was no mystery ingredient this time, the bartenders were simply challenged to come up with their best representation of a Bombay Sapphire cocktail. Rowland made a drink she dubs The Stagehand, using gin; Manzanilla sherry rapid-infused with star anise, orris root and angelica; Martini Gran Lusso; rooibos-tea scented mango sour; egg white and four drops of mango vinegar. Visit this story online for the recipe.

'BEST CRAFT COCKTAIL BARTENDER'

In this month's issue of GQ magazine, there's a photo of Rowland leaning against a larger-than-life bottle of Bombay Sapphire with a picture of her Stagehand drink nearby.

While the cocktail didn't win Rowland the "best" title this time, she's grateful she made it as far as she did.

"It was really exciting," she said. "It was a huge honor to be there and make it so far. It was definitely a lot of stress, a lot of eyes on you all the time, with unique challenges coming at you all the time."

And Rowland was happy she made it as far as she did, considering she participated in the same competition two years ago, back when she lived in Austin, and didn't make it further than the first round, she said.

In Austin, Rowland managed the bar at Drink Well.

"We made Food & Wine's (magazine) top best new bars in the country in 2012," Rowland said. "I was voted Austin's best craft cocktail bartender by Culture Magazine while I was down there."

Rowland moved to Vail a year ago this month, and loves it here, she said.

"I was ready for a break from the Austin heat and a change of pace and Vail's been great."

Rowland started as a bartender at a Red Robin when she was 20 years old, nearly a decade ago, before she could even legally drink herself.

"I wasn't able to taste anything yet," she said. "It's been quite the journey."

RECIPE: ‘The Vegas Cocktail’

Recipe courtesy Tacy Rowland, bar manager at Bol in Vail.

Thanks to this cocktail, Rowland won most creative bartender in Colorado, as named by Bombay Sapphire and GQ magazine. She advanced to Las Vegas where she placed in the top five. This cocktail is on the bar menu at Bol in Vail. “I think a lot of people find it layered and great and refreshing and different from the norm,” Rowland said.

1.5 ounces Bombay Sapphire

.25 ounce St. Germain

.75 ounce sencha green tea brewed with star anise, caraway and white peppercorn

.75 ounce simple syrup infused with saffron toasted rice and basil

.25 ounces fresh lemon juice

1 barspoon rice wine vinegar

Shake vigorously and fine strain into coupe glass. Garnish with a basil leaf and star anise flower.

RECIPE: THE STAGEHAND

1.5 ounces Bombay Sapphire

.75 ounce Manzanilla sherry rapid infused with star anise, orris root and angelica

.5 ounce Martini Gran Lusso

1.25 ounces rooibus tea scented mango sour

.5 ounce egg white

4 drops mango vinegar

Add all ingredients but vinegar to shaker tin. Dry shake for 15 seconds, add ice and shake vigorously until chilled. Fine strain into glass and garnish with mango vinegar and edible flower.

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