In January, St. Louis-native Pete Kelly launched his first spirit line, Salute American Vodka. The first of its offerings is an 80-proof vodka released first in Missouri and southern Illinois. In the past four months Salute has entered markets in Arkansas and Georgia, and in coming weeks it launches in Indiana.
With success expanding throughout the south and Midwest, Salute is circling back to St. Louis for its first big contest, "Battle of the Bartenders." Local bartenders are encouraged to compete in four preliminary competitions at various St. Louis restaurants and bars, culminating in a championship with a cash prize of $1,000.
The first battle gets underway Monday, April 22, at Syberg's-Chesterfield (17392 Chesterfield Airport Road, Chesterfield; 636-532-7600) from 7 to 10 p.m.
Gut Check spoke with Emily Gifford, representative for Salute's parent company, Better Brands BevCo., to learn more about the competition -- including tips for bartenders wanting to take home that cash prize.
According to Gifford, the rules are simple: Bartenders are tasked with creating a signature cocktail using Salute American Vodka and four other ingredients of their choosing. Then a panel of judges -- Gifford will be judging at the first two events -- will choose winners to advance to the finals on Monday, May 20, at Three Sixty St. Louis (1 South Broadway Street; 314-241-8439) from 7 to 10 p.m.
Additional preliminary rounds will be held on Monday, April 29, at Café Napoli (7754 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-863-5731), Monday, May 6, at Lucas Park Grille (1234 Washington Avenue; 314-241-7770) and Monday, May 13, at Sub Zero Vodka Bar (308 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-1200). All events run from 7 to 10 p.m.
As far as drink suggestions go, Gifford says Salute wants to see bartenders be creative -- but a nod to its patriotic, veteran's charity mission can't hurt.
"We definitely want to see their creativity. We love for them to incorporate kind of our brand, look and feel. I'd love to see a "purple heart" [drink] or "Naval officer," different takes on names. We'd love to see a tie-in with the brand, but it's up to them."
Not qualified to compete in the competition? All events are free and open to the public, with samples of Salute served neat to all guests, as well as drink specials at each bar.
To sign-up to compete in Salute's "Battle of the Bartenders," bartenders can email Salute with their name, address, phone number and date-of-birth in advance of each event. Gifford says she's like no more than twelve bartenders participating at each event.