After advancing by popular vote and facing a panel of judges, Donnie Pratt of Cucina 24 has been crowned the victor of Bar Wars AVL 2015 — a friendly competition aimed at raising glasses and funds for local charities.
“It went really well,” says Mary Rich, the event’s organizer and executive producer of Spirit Savvy Cocktails. “Our food and cocktail scene is really on par with larger metropolitan cities. This is just another way to shine a light on what talent we have in Asheville.”
From Monday, March 23 to Tuesday, April 7, Ashevilleans were invited to sip vodka cocktails at the event’s 10 participating bars, with $4 from each $10 drink donated to the bar’s chosen nonprofit partner. An ongoing online poll taken during those two weeks ultimately revealed Cucina 24, Sovereign Remedies, Aloft WXZY Lounge and Pulp as popular vote winners, advancing the final four to the next round.
Although Reyka vodka was the required cocktail ingredient during the first round, the Final Mix Off, held at Asheville Music Hall on Tuesday, April 7, challenged contestants to spotlight Drambuie — a sweet liqueur with a Scotch whisky base and honey, herb and spice notes. As it turns out, Pratt served up the winning formula.
“It was delicious! It was very spirit-forward, super balanced, and it looked like a mint julep,” says Rich “Donnie is very much into rum, so although the theme was Drambuie, he incorporated rum.” Pratt also used a homemade sweet vermouth, blended scotch, Jamaican rum, Angustora bitters and Peychaud’s bitters to craft his winning beverage.
In addition to street credibility, Pratt earned a double donation for Cucina 24’s nonprofit partner Open Doors of Asheville. The organization, which pairs at-risk youth with mentors and extracurricular opportunities, will get funds from Cucina 24’s initial cocktail sales plus a matched donation (up to $500) from Town and Mountain Realty. Although Rich says sales totals are still being counted at each restaurant, she estimates that this year’s 10 nonprofits will earn more than $3,000 collectively.
The 2015 event’s wide reach was due in part to the efforts of presenting sponsors Asheville Grit and Ashevegas, according to Rich, who notes: “They really provided some extra bandwidth for the whole program with the new voting platform.”
Overall, Rich says the event — a win-win boost for bars and charities — holds a promising future.
“I’d actually like to start doing these bar wars in different cities, so I’m really grateful for all of these bars to be willing to test this out with me,” she says. “Everybody played really well.”