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Cognac, here she comes

Empire State South's Kellie Thorn wins G'Vine cocktail competition

Eight Atlanta bartenders competed in G’Vine Gin de France’s cocktail competition at Empire State South last night, but only one won a ticket to Cognac, France to test their skills on an international stage.

Kellie Thorn, who also happens to manage the bar program at Empire State South, will advance to the next level in the craft spirit’s connoisseur program. The competition included reps from Atlanta favorites such as Navarro Carr from the Sound Table, Ryan Fitch from Octopus Bar, and Keisha Cyrus of Joystick Gamebar, as well as Benjamin Breaux from Athens’ Branded Butcher.

Contestants accrued points by first submitting a short essay, taking a knowledge quiz on gin and classic cocktails, and then were ultimately judged by their bartending skills and public persona. Attendees were given one token, and after trying the eight cocktails that incorporated one of G’Vine's two gin offerings (Floraison, a brighter, floral gin, and Nouaison, a London dry version), could vote for their favorite. But the criteria didn’t end with the popular vote. In addition to mixing up their G’Vine recipe for an eager crowd on ESS’s bocce ball court, bartenders were also observed by the trifecta of judges: Adam Fox, former bartender and distributor of G’Vine at Prime Wine and Spirts; Andy Minchow, co-owner at Holeman & Finch, and Audrey Fort, the spirits and wine portfolio director for G’Vine’s parent company, EuroWineGate.

Thorn’s winning creation was the delicate Ma Vie en Rose, based in the Floraison gin—floral botanicals and well balanced. “I’d been trying to think of a good gin and orgeat cocktail and as soon as I tasted the Floraison, I knew it would be perfect.”

Working with mostly French ingredients, the Ma Vie en Rose includes Dolin Blanc, Briottet Crème de Cassis, Suze, scented orgeat, and lemon. “I wanted to amplify the romance, roundness, floral notes, and spice that come with the Floraison gin,” she said. Her love letter was answered—Thorn leaves for Cognac in June. Curious palates can try on their own rose-colored glasses: The cocktail is featured on ESS’s spring drink menu.

G’Vine’s search for the best gin bartender is part of their L’Edition Ambassadeur, or the Ambassador Edition program. The grand prize winner must best competitors from throughout the US (New York and Los Angeles were also named preliminary contest cities), the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Singapore, and Japan. The winner will be crowned G’Vine Gin Connoisseur 2013, win $3,000, a customized training program from cocktail connoisseur Philip Duff, a media-training course, and the opportunity to present at major industry events Tales of the Cocktail and Bar Convent Berlin.