One of the most anticipated events at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail was the Bare Knuckle Bar Fight, which pitted seven bars against in each other in a drinks slinging, no-holds-barred fight to the death. Sort of. It was really just a spirited affair, in which the competing bars were judged on their ability to bang out great drinks while instigating one heck of a party.
Rather than industry stalwarts, the chosen bars represented some of the finest new establishments in America. They were tasked with holding down separately stationed bars in the Jax Brewery, while judges made the rounds and thirsty party goers shouted for drinks.
The competing bars were: Barrel House Flat (Chicago); Bar Smyth (Dallas); Citizen Pub (Boston); Polite Provisions (San Diego); Sweet Leaf (Queens, NY); The Broken Shaker (Miami); and The Daily (NYC).
Each bar created cocktails with Fords Gin, Tequila Cabeza, Caña Brava Rum and Aylesbury Duck Vodka (all brands within The 86 Co. lineup), as well as Del Maguey Vida. The competition/party was hosted by a fine compendium of who’s who in the cocktail world, including Steve Olson, Simon Ford, Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric.
From the get-go, it was madness. In the best possible way. Spectacle wise, Bar Smyth stole the show. The bartenders were clad in Texas flag aprons, rang cowbells and led choruses of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” One military-clad barkeep strolled the party floor pouring mezcal cocktails from a mini keg on his back. While another was literally breathing fire.
Outside, the Polite Provisions crew held court next to a mini pool and received constant praise for their “Polite as Fuck” t-shirts. A bikini-wearing Broken Shaker bartender poured mezcal straight into people’s mouths. Citizen Pub served a frozen mint julep slushy. And all around: throngs of people braved the heat and humidity to consume countless free drinks as they voted for their favorite bars of the evening.
When it was all over, Boston’s Citizen Pub won the popular vote, and the judges chose New York’s The Daily as the Bare Knuckle Bar Fight champion. Congrats to both, and congrats to all seven competitors for curating a pretty remarkable evening punctuated by delicious cocktails and obscene levels of fun.