Sometimes, as Al Gore can attest, it's not enough to convince the voters: You have to win over the judges as well. So it was with a whiskey-cocktail competition held by Downtown restaurant Braddock's American Brasserie.
Seeking a fresh new cocktail for its summer menu, Braddock's let its fans weigh in. "We live and breathe [whiskey] every day. So when you open it up to others, sometimes you get the best things," says Braddock's general manager, Jennifer Thomas.
Contest participants (invited local bloggers and Braddock's Facebook "fans") uploaded a photo and cocktail recipe to the restaurant's Facebook page. Of the 11 entrants, the two with the greatest number of "likes" advanced to the judges' table, where they were joined by a "judges' choice," picked by the restaurant brass.
Dean Gress, the restaurant's executive chef, served as one of the judges. He said his vote came down to "taste, how it fits in with our brand, and how it'll appeal to our guests." Thomas, who was also on the judging panel, said she was looking for a "fun summer cocktail that featured whiskey."
The top vote-getter, "Stout Hearted and Full of Sass," earned a $100 gift card for winning the popular vote — but the cocktail didn't quite measure up to the judges' standards. The public's second-place pick, the "YaJagoff," got high marks from judges, but they deemed it to have a more wintry flavor. While it may appear on the Braddock's drink list once the weather turns cold, the judges awarded first place, and a spot on the menu, to their own selection: blogger Ashley Oates's "P.G.H." (Peach Ginger Hit). It's a refreshing cocktail that combines Wigle Wheat whiskey, muddled peaches, mint, ginger simple syrup and tonic water.
Oates is a recent Pittsburgh transplant with no previous cocktail-making experience. Yet she says she sought to "create something snappy and fresh" that represented Pittsburgh in the summertime.
Ultimately, of course, the P.G.H.'s fate will be decided by the customers ... and how they vote with their wallets.
Editor's note: The name of executive chef Dean Gress was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.