A Spirited Roundup of the 2013 James Beard Nominees for Outstanding Bar Program

The 2013 James Beard Awards, which recognize the country’s finest chefs, restaurants, and cocktail programs, are just around the corner. As with every year, the nominees have been announced two weeks ahead of the awards presentation, and we’re particularly excited about this year’s Outstanding Bar Program category. In an effort to help readers identify and enjoy the best cocktails in the U.S.A., we’ve compiled all of the nominees, from New York to San Francisco, into one convenient Top List. Click on through and count how many places you’ve visited, and how many you need to hit before the awards are given out on May 6. We’ve also included one notable cocktail for each bar, because we’re nice like that. Happy drinking. Click here to begin your virtual drink-fest. 

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Read Some of the Mouthwatering Food Writing Up For James Beard Awards

It’s that time of year again, time for people who are really into food to talk about some really big awards. Nominees for the 2013 James Beard Awards were announced this week, with appearances from the usual suspects: David Chang of the Momofuku empire, Suzanne Goin of Lucques and Paul Kahan of all your favorite Chicago restaurants (but this year mostly Blackbird) are all up for Outstanding Chef, April Bloomfield and Stephanie Izard are up for regional awards and the Bouchon Bakery cookbook and Andrew Zimmern are both up for a bunch of things.

But just as much as the Beard Awards are about good food, they’re also about good writing about good food, and this year’s crop has some interesting reads. So when you’re done clicking literally every link on our site, why not cozy up on your lunch break to one of these selections? But wait until you have some food in you, of course. Otherwise, you’ll just get hungrier. 

PDT’s Jim Meehan Talks About His James Beard Award Win

This year the James Beard Foundation debuted the Outstanding Bar Program Award, an honor sponsored by Campari that is given to a bar that “displays and encourages excellence in cocktail, spirit, and/or beer service through a well-presented drink list, knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about beverages.” The winner of the inaugural award was PDT. We chatted with the humble owner of PDT, Jim Meehan, after he won the prize.

How did it feel to win?
It’s a crazy feeling, but it feels spectacular. This is something that we have paid very close attention to for a long time. It’s amazing that bars are now a part of the awards. I kind of left last night wondering if they were going to ask for it back.

Campari had a big part in the creation of this category. Do you like the spirit?
Campari is one of the ingredients that ends up in many cocktails and we use it a lot. Last night one of the bartenders made a good Campari drink with Plymouth gin, spiced honey syrup, and champagne.

Why do you think you won?
For five years we have taken care of our industry. We have always been a bar that is a little something extra, and, when chefs stop by we always take care of them.

You run you bar very well. What is your inspiration?
I came from Gramercy Tavern and Pegu Club. Audrey [Saunders, owner of Pegu Club] came from a five-star hotel and she taught us all how to offer hotel service in a cocktail bar.There were a lot of Gramercy people awarded last night too, and at that place it’s like a finishing school for service.Our own form of hospitality, the way we run the bar, is the way a restaurant runs its dining room—meaning, there is no standing and there is enough staff to serve you. My team for five years now has bought into this concept of running a bar like this. It’s very gratifying to get this award from this industry’s most celebrated and respected chefs.

What other bars do you think should win this award?
All the bars nominated deserve this award. Pegu Club is where I learned so much. Bar Agricole has an amazing wine program and their cocktails are elegant and well presented. Plus, it’s a certified green restaurant and I am surprised it didn’t win. Also, for Grant Achatz to open up a bar [The Aviary in Chicago] is such a huge thing for the bar industry. Last but not least, Toby Maloney who was our head bartender at Pegu Club and the first to head out and open up the Violet Hour in Chicago. It was bittersweet to walk away with the award because I am close with all the nominees and they all deserved it.

Now that you won, what are your plans today?
My plan is to try and reply to all my text messages and emails from people all across the country that reached out to say congratulations. Then I have a meeting at a bar and tonight I am having dinner with my brother and our wives at wd-50 for the launch of their new menu. All in all I am kind of speechless and really happy, but, in my experience you got to try to live up to the award. It’s important not to let it go to your head, so, it’s back to work. 

Photo by Kent Miller

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your 25th Annual James Beard Award Winners

Over two decades have passed since the James Beard Awards began handing out trophies to the best in the restaurant world, and it continues to be the Academy Awards of the food world. Last night, at the packed Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, the awards commenced with their 25th annual ceremony that honored the country’s top chefs, restaurants, food writers, journalists, servers, bartenders, and television personalities. Not surprising, New York took a big chunk of the glory, with awards going to Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, who won Best Chef in New York, and Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar who won Rising Star Chef of the Year, beating out Dave Beran of Grant Achatz’s Next, which won the Best New Restaurant award. New York also boasts a win for the outstanding chef award, which went to Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park. He trumped the other top-notch contestants including David Chang, Paul Kahan, Nancy Silverton, and Gary Danko. Paul Grieco took the prize with Terroir for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional. PDT won for Outstanding Bar Program, and La Grenouille achieved victory for outstanding service.

Though only a handful of people walked away with a medal, Lincoln Center filled up with the country’s hottest foodie folk. April Bloomfield of the Breslin and Spotted Pig made an appearance decked out in a snappy suit and—shocker—with makeup on. Food Republic spotted Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston sneaking a flask of Fernet, and, rumor has it a PR gal got fired after failing to recognize renowned French chef Jacques Pépin and not letting him enter the pressroom. Naturally, the nominees were there, as well as haute chefs like Ed Lee, Rick Bayless, Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Stephanie Izard, Cathy Whims, and dozens more. Keep making us tasty treats guys, and, may you all win next year.

The List of Winners:

Outstanding Chef: Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park (NYC)

Outstanding Restaurant: Boulevard (San Francisco)

Rising Star Chef: Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar (NYC)

Best New Restaurant: Next (Chicago)

Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH):  Bruce Sherman, North Pond (Chicago)

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA): Maricel Presilla, Cucharamama (Hoboken, NJ)

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI): Tory Miller, L’Etoile (Madison, WI)

Best Chef: New York City: Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern

Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY STATE, RI, VT): Tim Cushman, O Ya (Boston)

Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY), Matt Dillon, Sitka & Spruce (Seattle)

Best Chef: Pacific (CA, HI), Matt Molina, Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles)
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS): Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club (Birmingham, AL)

Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV): Tie between Hugh Acheson, Five and Ten (Athens, GA) and Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene (Atlanta)

Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, NV, OK, TX, UT), Paul Qui, Uchiko (Austin, TX)

Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional, Paul Grieco, Terroir (NYC)

Outstanding Wine Program, No. 9 Park (Boston)

Outstanding Bar Program, PDT (NYC)

Outstanding Service, La Grenouille (NYC)

Outstanding Pastry Chef, Mindy Segal, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate (Chicago)

Outstanding Restaurateur, Tom Douglas, Tom Douglas Restaurants (Seattle)

For a complete list of winners, go here.

Photo of Momofuk’s Christina Tosi by Kent Miller

Chef’s Night Out: Pregaming for the James Beard Awards

Saturday may have rocked Cinco de Mayo and Derby Day, but for true culinary connoisseurs, Sunday was the night to party. The start of the evening featured a killer set by DJ ?uestlove, who is teaming up with Chicago-based chef Graham Elliot to pair food and music together. The two met at Lollapalooza in 2010 when Elliot acted as the culinary ambassador for the festival and something clicked, creating a match made in pop culture heaven. Last night they showed their partnership under a large yellow moon at the penthouse suite of the Mondrian Hotel in Soho. While ?uestlove served the beats, black-clad waiters passed out delicate truffle deviled eggs, fried mac ‘n’cheese on a stick, and hefty fried “Love’s Drumsticks”—all a sneak peek into what the team plans on doing in the future.

To drink they offered cocktails including the NY State of Mind, a mixture of gin, sparkling wine, and Ty Ku sake, and the Brazilian ‘”Roots,” which had Lebion Cachaca, cane sugar, and lime. Sipping drinks and taking in the killer view were Park and Recreations actor Aziz Ansari, Onion writer Bartunde Thurston, and Top Chef contestant Carla Hall. Like Hall, Elliot was also on Top Chef as well as Iron Chef America, and he has been nominated for three James Beard Awards.

Speaking of the James Beard Awards, last night also kicked off the 2012 JBA with Chef’s Night Out, an annual event celebrating the nominees. Campari helped sponsor the event at the Chelsea Market, and there were top bartenders like Dushan Zaric from Employees Only mixing up the Bouleuardier, a stiff drink akin to a bourbon negroni, and Damon Dyer from Rum House doing a fresh Campari with Fever Tree soda water. Jane Danger who runs the darling Jane’s Sweet Buns created devious shortbread with the sprit, which was also topped with rhubarb bitters cream. In the main hall, revelers indulged in melt-in-your-mouth Iberico ham served by Forever Cheese, whipped lardo from Dickson’s Farmstead Meats, tangy mac ‘n’ cheese by The Green Table, and dense chocolate brownies made by Fat Witch Bakery.

Some of the chefs, restaurateurs, and TV personalities enjoying the night included: Curtis Stone of the new Bravo show Around the World in 80 Plates, Ted Allen from Chopped, world renowned chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller, Tony and Marisa May of SD26, pastry chef Pichet Ong, John Besh, chef Madison Cowan from BBC’s No Kitchen Required, Daniel Holzman from The Meatball Shop, Salumeria Rosi’s Cesare Casella, and southern chef Hugh Acheson—plus a whole lot more. Tonight many of these people will be waiting for hours at the James Beard Awards and this was the calm before the storm of tonight’s parties and prestigious honors.

Industry Insiders: Charlotte Voisey, Rocks Star

William Grant & Son’s slinky brand ambassador Charlotte Voisey has traveled the world honing the ideal dram. She’s tended bar from Buenos Aires to London to Barcelona and was recently recognized by the James Beard Awards as one one of the world’s top female mixologists. Voisey dishes the skinny on her drinks of choice, the perfect martini lunch, and her top bars around the globe.

You’ve seen these little mixology scenes sprout up in various spots around the world. What are some differences between them? San Francisco is dominated with a love for Farmers’ Market ingredients and a culinary approach to cocktails. New York does the classics like no other city, and London combines different styles from all over the world. I especially love the very classy hotel bars in London. LA is coming up as a new hub of great bars, especially in the Downtown area.

You’ve been recognized as one of the leading female mixologists at the James Beard awards. I find it odd that gender is involved. What’s the difference between male and female made drinks? The James Beard Awards this year focused on Women in Food and Mixology as a theme. It was really to celebrate the success of female professionals in a domain that has, until now, been dominated by men.

You’ve tended bar in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, London and New York. What’s your favorite bar to drink in each of those cities? Boadas in Barcelona. The Bar at the Dorchester in London and Flatiron Lounge in New York.

Gin was the straight up crack rock of its day in 1700’s England, and now it’s a sophisticated, legit drink with brand ambassadors like yourself. This begs the question: will there be crack rock mixologists in the future? Let’s hope not!

A martini should be made with gin, so you get a little flavor. But say you want to go the vodka route, so your boss doesn’t smell it on your breath in the morning meeting. What vodka do you use? I would choose Reyka, from Iceland, with a cheeky dash of Angostura bitters

There’s a bit of a backlash against mixology. Why do you think that is? Who would backlash against beautifully crafted cocktails? I have not heard of any backlash. Maybe I’m blinded my love.

Favorite bar in the world? La Floridita in Havana, Cuba.

What is an ingredient that most people are missing in their bar that they should definitely have? Lillet Rouge.

What is your cocktail du jour? Cucumber Gimlets with Hendrick’s gin. Delicious.

What’s a drink you would never order? A dirty martini. I cannot do olives.

Say it’s about 5:43 pm on a Wednesday and you’re fading a little. Do you drink: a. Vodka b. Whiskey c. Coffee d. Beer? b. Whiskey

Speaking for both of us: how drunk are we right now? Given that it’s 5.45 p.m. — just a little tipsy.