Last month, our friends at Salt Lake Magazine hosted their annual cocktail contest featuring 12 of the city’s best drink-slingers. The competitors were challenged to make unique, seasonal cocktails using fresh ingredients and local spirits—and they didn’t disappoint. Throughout November, readers and libation enthusiasts were asked to vote for their favorite concoction while the editors of Salt Lake were tasked with their own evaluations.

Salt Lake Cocktail Contest
Photography by Austen Diamond

The Salt Lake team, along with Francis Fecteau of Libation SLC, had a lot to discuss while deciding the winner of their 2021 Cocktail Contest. They evaluated how these cocktails engage the senses—the visual presentation, the aroma and, most importantly, the taste. They mused philosophically about what makes a cocktail great and debated personal preferences. And they considered which cocktails were particularly unique, which were well-balanced and which they wanted to order again and again. 

None of the 12 cocktail creations were exactly alike. They featured unexpected flavor combinations and inventive uses of local spirits. Some envisioned a summertime trip to the islands with tiki-inspired drinks, while others evoked the coziness of fall. Plenty gave new life to unconventional ingredients, from beets to parsnips. Bartenders used homemade shrubs, eye-catching garnishes and other personal touches to make these cocktails unmistakably their own. This contest proved how many places there are to get a great cocktail in SLC—and was a testament to the creativity and passion of the bartenders behind these delicious drinks.

Here’s how the winnings shook out:

Salt Lake Cocktail Contest
Photography by Austen Diamond

Reader’s Choice: The Alta Peruvian by Eli Larson from SLC Eatery

What’s Inside:
1½ oz Peruvian Pisco Logia
¼ oz Benedictine and Brandy Liqueur
½ oz Yuzu juice
¼ oz house-made almond and sesame orgeat syrup 
2 dashes of chocolate bitters

How to Make It:
Shake and double strain into a Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with sesame gastrique and sesame seeds on the glass, candied squash and micro greens on a pick.

Salt Lake Cocktail Contest
Photography by Austen Diamond

Judge’s Choice: Dead Man’s Party by Maddy Schmidt from Alibi

What’s Inside:
1 oz Beachbum Berry Hamilton Zombie Blend
1 oz Wahaka Mezcal Espadin 
¾ oz lime juice 
½ oz Caffe Lolita 
¾ oz pineapple ancho shrub

How to Make It:
Combine all ingredients in shaker. Shake and strain onto crushed ice.

Make You Own Pineapple Ancho Shrub:
14 oz pineapple juice
5 ancho chilies 
4 tbs peppercorns  
1 cup apple cider vinegar 
4 cups sugar 

Combine all ingredients in large saucepan. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Cool.

Bring Home The Gold

Dress up your home bar and make your own award-winning cocktail with our favorite gilded barware.

Marble & Brass Bee Cocktail Picks, $39.95, Williams Sonoma.
Salt Lake Cocktail Contest
Frances Decanters, $620, Arteriors.
Radiant Drinking Glasses, $45, West Elm.
Salt Lake Cocktail Contest
Petit Scoop in Brass, $18, The Fox Shop, Holladay
Alum Tray, $155, Foundation Goods, SLC.
Salt Lake Cocktail Contest
Barbell Barware Set, $208, Jonathan Adler.

The location of the cocktail contest photo shoot took place at The Shop Workspace, learn more about the bright and airy shared building here.