Coming out of a nationwide search and continuing its commitment to a well-crafted cocktail, Woodford Reserve last night crowned Allison Widdecombe of Denver as the winner of its 2015 Manhattan Experience, a national program that showcases the talents of bartenders around the country by giving them the chance to enter their unique spins on the classic bourbon cocktail, the Manhattan.

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Photos by Gabi Porter

The event took place in New York at The Bowery Hotel’s Bowery Terrace, and featured the recipes of six semi-finalists chosen from select markets around the country and judged by industry innovators Charles Joly, Jacques Bezuidenhout, David Wondrich, and Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris. Consumers and bartenders alike were invited to attend the event and sample the finalists’ recipe, and were also given the chance to vote on their favorite recipe.

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Photos by Gabi Porter

“I’m so honored to have been selected as the winner of this year’s Manhattan Experience,” says Widdecombe. “The judges were looking for cocktails that encompass not just a great taste, but a great experience as well. To have been recognized by a brand as well respected as Woodford Reserve is truly amazing.” Widdecombe has said that her original recipe was a twist on the classic, with alternative ingredients that replicate the classic Manhattan’s blend of sweet, dry, bitter, and bourbon-forward flavors.

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Photos by Gabi Porter

“It’s only natural that a bourbon as well-crafted as Woodford Reserve is used in such a unique, and not to mention delicious Manhattan recipe,” says Master Distiller Chris Morris. “Allison’s recipe was truly one of a kind, and we’re proud to name it as this year’s winner.”

As winner, Widdecombe will receive a feature article on leading industry publication Liquor.com, as well as a trip to San Francisco for a photo and video shoot that will live on the Liquor.com site. Following regional events around the country, last night brought together this year’s six finalists, who represented Denver, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Portland, and San Francisco.

This year, the program saw over 500 entries from 30 markets. Participants were challenged to come up with a modern twist on the classic and beloved Manhattan cocktail. Widdecombe’s cocktail featured oolong tea-infused ruby port, which acted as a traditional Manhattan’s sweet vermouth, and cardamom-infused orange liqueur to replace the typical dry vermouth. The full recipe is included below.

ProvenPerfect

Photos by Gabi Porter

Proven Perfect

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Woodford Reserve
  • 1/2 oz. Oolong Tea-Infused Ruby Port
  • 1/2 oz. Cardamom-Infused Amèr Nouvelle
  • 1/2 bar spoon of Fernet Branca

Preparation: Combine ingredients over ice in mixing glass and stir. Strain them into a cocktail glass, and garnish with an expressed lemon twist.