Last month, we announced the six lucky finalists in the 2019 Balcones Bartender Challenge.

California, Florida and Texas bartenders battled it out to create the most original whiskey cocktail, using either Balcones Baby Blue, Texas Rye 100 or Pot Still Bourbon. The cocktails were judged according to the name of the cocktail (10 points), appearance/presentation (15 points), written inspiration (25 points), creativity (20 points), and balance of flavors, aroma and character (30 points).

Marcelo Barredo Making His Winning Cocktail

Marcelo wasn’t in attendance for the final competition, so bartender Robert Britto mixed up his signature cocktail for the judges.

On Monday, September 23, the six finalists competed at the Balcones Distillery in Waco, Texas for a grand prize of $5,000. We’re excited to announce that Marcelo Barredo was crowned the winner with his cocktail, Upstairs neighbor. The other five finalists each took home $500 as a consolation prize.

Marcelo Barredo, standing and smiling with winning cocktail

Robert Britto

Congratulations to Marcelo and all of the amazing bartenders who competed in the final! You can check out the winning cocktail recipe and inspiration behind it below.

Upstairs Neighbor winning cocktail, with bottles and garnish

Upstairs Neighbor

Upstairs Neighbor


  • 1.5  oz. Balcones Pot Still Bourbon
  • .5  oz. Honey Pecan Syrup with Fig and Spices*
  • .5  oz. Licor 43 Infused with Brie Cheese**
  • .75  oz. Aperol
  • 5 drops Champagne Acid
  • 1 Homemade Bagel Chip*** (to Garnish)
  • Slice of Brie Cheese Infused with Balcones Rye for 14 hours (to Garnish)
  • Scoop of Fig Jam (to Garnish)
  • 1 Pecan (to Garnish)
  • Sprig of Rosemary (to Garnish)

Preparation: Add all liquid ingredients to a mixing glass, add ice and stir until properly chilled. Strain cocktail over a large ice cube. Express a lemon peel over the cocktail and place the swab on the side. Garnish with a tapa made from homemade bagel, slice of brie cheese infused with Balcones Rye, scoop of fig jam, a pecan, and small sprig of rosemary.

*Honey Pecan Syrup With Fig and Spices

In a freezer bag, add 9 oz of honey syrup (1 part honey, 2 parts water) with 25 crushed pecans, 4 oz of Brie Cheese, 9 dried figs, 2 big pinches of powdered cinnamon and 1 big pinch of nutmeg. Place the bag in a Sous Vide and infuse the syrup for 5 hours at 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Strain the syrup through a coffee filter and place in a bottle.

**Brie infused Licor 43

Add 9 oz. of Licor 43 to a Mason jar with 6 oz of Brie cheese. Close Mason jar and let the mix sit for 18 hours. Strain liquid through a coffee filter.

***Homemade Bagel Chips

With a round cookie cutter, cut circles out of an everything bagel. Flatten and dehydrate the bagel.

Cocktail Inspiration:

This drink is an ode to my present and my future; the city where I currently reside, Austin, and the country I plan on moving to soon, Spain. Austin has such a competitive bar scene, and we take pride in being different. Keeping this in mind, I created a drink that was as unique as my city. I started with Brie cheese and honey syrup with nuts and fruit to replicate the classic Brie dessert. Licor 43 is a popular Spanish liqueur, and the citrus-vanilla flavor pairs well with the bourbon and syrup. I infused this Licor 43 with Brie cheese to add complexity and mouthfeel. Because I was using a great bourbon from the city above mine and cheese from the country above Spain (France), the drink is named Upstairs Neighbor. The next ingredient is a classic aperitif, Aperol, and this adds a nice bitterness to balance out the sweetness. It also adds fruity notes that pair well with the syrup and the Licor 43.

The last ingredient is Champagne acid, and this adds a little tartness and bridges the other flavors together to create something truly special. Champagne also comes from France, so it is a fitting ingredient. This cocktail was centered around Balcones Pot Still Bourbon and I took great care to not hide its unique flavor. The character that distinguishes Balcones Bourbon still shines through in this cocktail. The garnish is another nod at Spain who is famous for their tapas. I used homemade bagel chips, Brie cheese soaked in Balcones Rye Whiskey, fig jam and pecans for this tapa. This garnish isn’t just for looks, it’s meant to be enjoyed alongside the drink like a classically authentic Spanish cocktail.