All posts for the month February, 2016

USBGLV Food Truck Cocktail Wars is going to set a precedent! This Bar Crawl & Cocktail Comp pairs Chefs and Barmen together for culinary/mixological synergy. This groundbreaking event has been created is in the name of charity and proceeds will be supporting the Helen David Relief Fund & the USBG. It is part of For the Love of Cocktails which will be three days of cocktail celebration and imbibing for the cause. The Food Truck Cocktail Wars is happening Thursday, February 11th at 10.p.m. All of the competitors are taking this opportunity very seriously but perhaps no one more than Bryan Pierzga and his chef counterpart, Christian Guzman of Dragon Grille!

Read below for a sneak peak in the mind of a mixologist….

Bryan Pierzga


How do you feel about competing in the Food Truck Cocktail Wars?

“In all reality I had not expected to get selected. There’s a plethora of insanely talented bartenders in this city. The $1500 bounty on this would surely account for a healthy amount of them submitting recipes. You could color me excited at the news of being picked; enough that I had to excuse myself out the back and give a little fist pump towards the night sky.”

Tell us about your background and how you will utilize it in the competition?

“Except for one exception, I’ve always worked in restaurant/bar combinations. I started bussing at an Irish Restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland. From there, I served and worked up to bartender at a college craft beer and tequila joint in Pennsylvania. My year and a half in Vegas has seen me at El Dorado in its infancy, opening crew at Yardbird in the Venetian, on-call mixologist for Cosmopolitan, and now presently at the brand new F. Pigalle in downtown. Being afforded the opportunity to work such vastly different style of bars and kitchens was a blessing.

Where do you see the connection between bar and kitchen?

Before digging into the depths of bartending, I had seriously considered culinary school in California. I loved working around skillful chefs and bouncing ideas, food or drink wise, off of them to see if my flavors profiles had merit. Chefs and bartenders, in my humble opinion, are very similar. We have a similar thought process when creating anything we plan to serve. That common thread between the “gap” that is FOH and BOH is something to take advantage; of which, I plan to fully explore.

How are you approaching the cocktail & food pairing?

I’m looking at this from two perspectives; either my drink needs to seem almost a part of the dish by using similar flavors or it should contrast with every bite and sip. I want every aspect of both of our offerings to shine. Going about achieving those results will take some tweaking but I’m confident that we can. All said and done this is shaping up to be a unique cocktail competition. One of which,  I am proud to be a part of. It won’t be easy to take down the other pairings but that makes a win all the more satisfying.”

We can’t wait!

Tickets are still available.

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With For the Love of Cocktails quickly approaching, participants are gearing up for the fun and creative Food Truck Cocktail Wars. Featured chefs and mixologists come together to create a one of a kind cocktail & food pairing experience. It will be equal parts tasting & competition that is focusing on the importance of a strong marriage between kitchen and bar. The results: very creative and very delicious cocktails and food. Our tastebuds, livers and stomachs are sure to be stimulated! February 11th, 10PM at the Gold Spike in Downtown Las Vegas.

Team #2: Tim Baer and Justin Kinsley Hall


Tim Baer

How excited are about the event? How will your experience play into your performance?

What an Amazing and unparalleled opportunity for our team! I am honored and excited about this competition and the chance to work beside Chef Justin. Working one on one with a chef to create a concept where both show their metal is a first for me! I have worked with chefs to create flavor profiles for cocktails, but a specific cocktail to pair with a Chef’s dish is a first. Working with Dave Ponte and the bar team at Nobu is what sparked my interested in Mixology and reignited the passion in my 26-year career. I have strived to learn all I can about mixology from making purees and syrups to mixing with shrubs and exotic juices. Mr. Chow is my next challenge and working with Pete Gomez, another former Nobu Bar manager, has presented more room to create a new and exciting bar program and further develop my skills in Mixology. Being exposed to different exotic fruits and having bar managers to encourage creativity has let me to my cocktail ‘The Duke’ that we will be offering at food truck wars.”

What is your game plan for the competition?

“Chef and I have a lot of things in common including our past cultural relationships. We have discussed the flavor profiles of the cocktail and came up with a dish from our common Danish connection.

What is your favorite part of &/or greatest challenge with Food & Cocktail pairings?

“Where else can do you get the opportunity create something with a blank slate! It gives your imagination the chance to wonder what if! Then what next? Do you contrast, compliment, lead into or just pull a fusion? It is a lot to think about but that idea of unlimited potential lets you throw the rules out and just express your art! Looking at the playing field of teams is almost as exciting as the concept itself. I am hoping that I’ll get a chance to sample some of my competitor’s parings as well as learning from them about their concept and synergy that they create. What a better reason then for charity? The Helen David Relief Fund is bringing us all together to put out the best that we have to offer and push us to do better!

Tell me about the spirit that you will be using?”

“I am working with Basil Hayden’s for my cocktail. Created by Master Distiller Basil Hayden, this bourbon broke the rules of the time by adding rye and grains to contrast the sweetness of corn to create a flavor profile of citrus, pepper, and spice. Basil Hayden took the lead in my cocktail with its spicy bourbon being the forward flavor and will mix perfectly with Yuzu and my Fig & Balsamic shrub.”

Anything that you’d like to add?

“Thank you for this opportunity and may all your bottoms be up!”



Chef Justin Kingsley Hall


Chef, where do you see the marriage of food & drink?

“As chefs we spend a lot of time pairing food with wine, and now beer pairings are becoming more respected. I’ve always loved collaboration, so the chance to work with cocktail pairings is always an exciting opportunity. You’re able to play with such a vast profile of flavors as well as textures that it allows a chef to look at it as one coherent experience rather than food/drink. The two bleed into one another very easily. The challenge if at all is that you have two very creative people mapping that idea from two different sides of the table.”

Can you tell us a little about your background?

“Along with consulting, I teach at the Art Institute of Las Vegas and assist in the kitchen at Southern Wine & Spirits. I’ve catered anything from high end home dinners to beer festivals, the Further Festival last year, Life is Beautiful and work with several chefs whenever asked. In the past I worked for Comme Câ under Brian Howard both here in Vegas and West Hollywood. I’ve also lived and worked in the Central Coast of California, Florida, and North Carolina (not cooking in NC). My experience from working in fine dining to pop-ups; I’m comfortable in any environment. It surprising what you can accomplish when pushed to do your best.”

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USBGLV Food Truck Cocktail Wars -Competitor Spotlight!

Patrick Flanagan


What are you most excited about with this event?

“I’ve never had better barbecue in my life than from Chef Mike Minor’s TruckU Barbeque so I’m super excited to try to eat as much of it as I can before the customers get to it. Just kidding! But I’m really excited to be working with such a talented Chef. My most significant bartending experience comes from working at The Empire, a gourmet Chinese Dim Sum restaurant in downtown Portland, Maine. There I got to play around with some unique asian fruits and traditional cooking ingredients as well as to hone my cocktail creation skills. But mostly I’m just a huge nerd and always have my nose in a book or am experimenting in a secret cocktail lab I share with my colleague Wan Requena.”

What is your game plan?

“I’ve been communicating with Chef Mike since we were introduced for the competition. We did a really productive tasting and cocktail experimentation meeting in person where we played around with different recipe and proportion ideas I had before settling on a mesquite smoke and apricot driven flavor profile. Early on we decided to go with his brisket sopa in a corm masa bowl as the dish and I created the cocktail around that and the base spirit.Strategy wise, the cocktail compliments the smokey, sweet, and slightly herbal (cilantro/mint) qualities in the dish with the mesquite and mint infused bourbon and deliciously rich apricot liqueur. Simultaneously, it contrasts the dish’s flavors and sweetness with acidic lemon and bitter amaro to give the pairing balance. The cocktail is also designed to dynamically change in sweetness over time, by using a sweet, smoked pomegranate juice ice cube. This compensates for the decrease in sweetness in the dish as one moves from the brisket on top to the lime soaked corn masa bowl on the bottom. I tried to think 4 dimensionally about the cocktail pairing-not only its composition and physical appearance, but its taste over time compared to the dish.”


10401933_302178159944504_4657098049720750674_n     (Chef Mike Minor of TruckU Barbeque)

What would be the biggest challenge with food & cocktail pairings?

“My favorite part of the competition is the intellectual challenge to create something relatively unique while constrained to the parameters of using only the base spirit and having it pair perfectly with the dish – that and having an excuse to sip delicious cocktails while chowing down on some smoked brisket. Life is hard sometimes.”

Tell me about the spirit that you will be utilizing?

The spirit I’ll be using is WoodFord Reserve’s signature product: a Kentucky Straight Bourbon. The spirit is a great standard bearer for artisinal Bourbon. Everything is carefully cultivated from the mineral rich, iron free, limestone filtered water, to their proprietary yeast, to the proportions of grain that go into mash. This bourbon is 72% corn giving it a warmer, rounder character, but this is also balanced by a relatively high amount of rye at 18% that gives it a sharper, spicier note. When tasting the bourbon for notes that would pair well with the barbecue dish, I got hints of smoke, charcoal, oak, and stonefruit. For the cocktail I decided to play off the smoke and went with apricot to match the stonefruit. At 45.2% alcohol, the bourbon is also hotter than most other bourbons or commercial spirits. I had to compensate for this with the lemon, amaro, and mint to round out the nose and back end of the cocktail.”


USBGLV Food Truck Cocktail Wars is this February 11th 9PM

For the Love of Cocktails, February 10, 11, 12

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Event Preview

February 11th: Food Truck Cocktail Wars -Competitor Spotlight


Ryan Clark


“I can’t wait for the event! It’s something new and exciting for me. I’ve worked in restaurants and pubs before but have mainly worked in high volume night clubs for the past 20 years. What brought me to Las Vegas from Canada was flair bartending, which I have been doing for 10 years. I am very used to being on stage and having a great time with an audience or guests.”

What is your game plan for the event?

“On my side of things, I plan to make a great cocktail that goes down easy, smells great and pairs perfectly with the food. I am doing something simple in order to get it out fast and easy but isn’t boring. I will definitely use all the tools in my bag to get as many crowd favorite chips as we can.”

What do you enjoy about food & cocktail pairings?

“The best part for me is that moment you find a new flavor that wasn’t in the cocktail or dish before having them together.”

Tell us about the spirit that you will be using?

“I get the privilege of using Tito’s handmade Vodka from Texas. I am excited to make a great cocktail in a spirit category that most mixologists want overlook.”

And your Chef partner?

“My new chef is Mell “Boots ” Johnson from Yardbird.”

For more information:

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As part of For the Love of Cocktails, we will be experiencing a new and exciting type of competition. The Food Truck Cocktail Wars brings together eight top mixologists & eight local chefs. Working with spirit sponsor, they will engage in a “no holds barred” cocktail & culinary celebration. Each team is tasked with creating the perfect pairing of cocktails & food for a delightful result.

One of the competing teams is comprised of Julian Luna from Vesper Bar and Chef Gina Marinelli from D.O.C.G. These veterans in the industry are no strangers to competitions. Speaking of the importance of a strong relationship between kitchen and bar, Chef Marinelli believes, “It’s a great opportunity to showcase the dynamics between the kitchen and the bar, and how a strong connection always results in a successful product.”








Chef Gina Marinelli

The Food Truck Cocktail Wars will be held downtown on February 11th at the Gold Spike. All proceeds will benefit the USBGLV and Helen David Relief Fund. Start time is 10PM.









Julian Luna

“I was the Beverage Director at Hops & Harvest and for the last 3 years I’ve worked for Vesper bar. I’ve seen how important guest service is and how crucial it is for the bar & kitchen to work together. I think our game plan is to learn about each other’s styles and finely play off of them. Of course, hospitality will be a huge focus. We need to make sure that we create a show with a warm and inviting atmosphere. I woudn’t call it a preview, but just know that everything that we do is meant to catch your eye and make you to think! Bartenders come from a long lineage of proud drinking culture; it’s only right that we lead the way in giving back to our wonderful community with this great charity event!


Article by: “TomTom” Kozlowski & Adam Rains

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For the Love of Cocktails is almost here! It is three nights of wine, food, cocktails & celebration for charity. Smack dab in the middle of the event, is the Food Truck Cocktail Wars/Downtown Bar Crawl brought to you by the Las Vegas chapter of the USBG and Back Bar USA. This event allows chef and barman to come together in support of the Helen David Relief Fund. Cocktails and Dishes prepared by some of the best in the business will be paired together for heavenly results. The best one will take home the title!

Thursday, February 11th 10PM!

Here’s a preview on two of the competitors:

Team #1: Representing FAIR Spirits and The Goodwich -Rob Amato & Joshua Clark

Cocktail Ammunition/Spirit Sponsor: Ron Zacapa


“I’m very excited about the event. The last 2 years, I have worked at two boutique wholesalers; At one, I was a Spirits Manager and the other, I was the Director of Beverage Development. Currently, I am the Brand Ambassador for FAIR Spirits here in Nevada. Without giving to much away, my game plan is to create a cocktail that compliments the chefs creation. We have met and have discussed strategy. As much as I want to give a preview, I don’t really want to give anything away.”

Rob Amato


“We are all excited for the event and it should be fun! Although we are competitive, we are also excited to be a part of it and look forward to cooking with fellow friends at this event. Our game plan is to have fun and make it a fun experience for all the guests. I am certain we can all provide some tasty bites and sips for the masses!! We have a theme and we have synergy; we will have a great time with all involved. It’s about the teamwork between Bartender and Chef when they come together to create a delicious pairing and then share it. That is both the challenge, and the best part!!”

Chef Joshua Clark


For tickets and info:

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