Pittsburgh bartender Manami York has been named the winner of Chilled Magazine’s first online cocktail competition, A Toast to the Service Industry.
The competition, which lasted four weeks, was created to give back to the bartending community as many have been unemployed during coronavirus shutdowns. Bartenders were required to create a drink based on one of 10 spirits from 375 Park Avenue Spirits, the magazine’s competition partner, and submit them online. The magazine judges chose 10 weekly winners — each receiving $500 — before narrowing the pool (which totaled around 1,000 entries) down to four finalists that battled for the crown, a prize of $4,000, via Facebook Live.
York, who bartends at Con Alma, took inspiration from Cal Tjader’s 1963 album Several Shades of Jade — one of her favorites to play during service at the Shadyside jazz bar — to design her winning cocktail, Shades of Tjader.
The drink, like the album, incorporates Asian elements. It’s a spin on a whiskey sour, mixing J.P. Wiser’s Rye Whiskey, Soho Lychee (lychee liquor), ginger tea syrup, lemon juice, matcha powder, and aquafaba instead of an eggwhite.
“It takes you out of your comfort zone a little bit,” says York, commenting on her unexpected flavor combinations in Shades of Tjader, “[while] making rye whiskey approachable to a vodka or gin drinker.”
“The really cool part,” she continues, “is that visually, there are several shades of jade in the cocktail.” The drink itself is a muted green, the color echoing through foam and garnish.
A Toast to the Service Industry was York’s second national cocktail competition. York was going head-to-head with bartenders from big-name cocktail cities like Chicago and Miami.
“Not going to lie,” she laughed, “I felt like the underdog going in.”
Shades of Tjader was one of two drinks she submitted, the other tequila-based and named after one of her favorite books, A Streetcar Named Desire.
And to York, the win wasn’t just big for her, but for the entire bar community of Pittsburgh. “The more we can do on the national level, the more [Pittsburgh bartenders] get recognized and taken more seriously,” she explains.
Shades of Tjader will be on Con Alma’s cocktails-to-go menu this weekend and, once restaurants are given the green light to reopen, York hopes it will be part of the summer menu.