WASHINGTON, D.C. To celebrate its new $28 million redesign, Washington Marriott Georgetown recently invited two D.C.-area mixologists to compete against two Marriott bartenders to craft the best bourbon cocktail. The city's inaugural Bourbon Battle, which took place March 29, is part of the Marriott Hotels Bourbon Program, which is an on-site food and drink experience for hotel guests.
James Addison, Marriott's vice president of brand operations, design, and development, is the founder of the program and also served as a judge during the event. Addison said the purpose of the program, which launched in 2015, is to provide premium bar experiences for hotel guests through expert craftsmanship.
“By incorporating elements of storytelling, product knowledge, and mixology, we can provide an experience that is unique and largely unavailable at competing hotel chains,” said Addison. “The internal tagline of our program is 'Masters of Our Craft'—which is exactly the mindset we want to create in all of our bartenders. So this program was also designed with our bartenders in mind—to create for them the opportunity and the incentive to develop their skills and passion for mixology.”
Addison said that the Bourbon Battle series is just one aspect of the program, which also hosts a Bourbon Boot Camps series for Marriott Hotels' bartenders. The boot camp events—which have taken place at Marriott's partner distilleries Knob Creek and Michters in Kentucky and Tuthilltown in New York—invite bartenders to spend more than two days training and learning about bourbon production.
“On a local level at individual hotels, the program also involves individual bartenders crafting their own unique bourbon flight, complete with a tasting of three different bourbons and the bartender’s storytelling as to why these three and why in this order,” Addison said.
The first edition of the Washington event invited Jessica Weinstein, beverage director and bar manager for Hank's Oyster Bar, and Jennifer Feldt, St. Germain brand specialist and Addendum and 801 bartender, to make their best bourbon cocktails alongside the hotel's own bartender, Sam Abdweh, and Lauren Sundburg of Marriott Griffin Gate in Lexington, Kentucky. The event, which was hosted by the Food Network's Rossi Morreale, invited local celebrity judges—including David Hagedorn, food writer and cookbook author, and Carrie Allan, spirits writer for the Washington Post—to choose the winning mixologist. Weinstein, who was crowned the winner, received a weekend stay at the hotel, Marriott Rewards Platinum status, and 100,000 reward points.
Along with watching the competition, guests in attendance were given the opportunity to sample locally made bourbons in a Taste of DC blind tasting, eat hors d'oeuvres and drink specialty cocktails, and cheer on a group of local reporters that were invited to participate in the event's Media Bourbon Battle segment.
Bourbon Battle events, which also have taken place at hotels in Kentucky, Portland, Boston, and New York, are produced in partnership with IMG Live. Addison noted that five more Bourbon Boot Camps are slated to take place this year.