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Cocktail Shakedown Title Goes to Bunker Club Bartender Thomas Upshaw ​

September 11, 2017 Click here for pictures
Cocktail Shakedown Title Goes to ​Bunker Club Bartender Thomas Upshaw

Thomas Upshaw of ​The Bunker Club in Oklahoma City took first place with his creation called ​The Horse Buck in the ​fourth annual Oklahoma Restaurant Association Cocktail Shakedown at the Oklahoma Restaurant Convention & Expo on ​August 31, 2017.

​Upshaw was one of several bartenders scoring the highest number of total points in the first and second rounds of the competition, qualifying them to advance and compete in the Semi Finals and Championship Round​.

​Contestants in the four heats from the first round created concoctions made with Ocean Vodka, Henderson Coffee, Old Forester Whisky, and Tito's Vodka. Drinks in​ Round II were made featuring George Dickel Whisky, Herradura Silver Tequila, and TX Whisky, and in the Semi-Finals competitors were mandated to create winning cocktails with Chambord and Jagermeister.  The championship round was a no-holds-barred open round where the competitive spirit in bartenders really shined through the use of infused speciality ice provided by Vault Ice.

Upshaw’s​ final concoction in the Championship open round earned him ​​a $1,​5​00 cash prize, the grand champion belt, a $200 Amazon gift card, and Powerbeats3 wireless earbuds. ​He impressed the judges by mixing winning portions of cranberry bitters, Bulleit Rye, vanilla vodka, simple syrup, muddled apple fans, muddled mint leaves, cranberry infused ice rock, Apple fan, mint, and powdered sugar to take home the title.

Megan (Red) Harris of R&J Lounge & Supper Club, OKC ​also showed her creative talents throughout the day, eventually ​claim​ing​​ second place and ​walking away with $750 and additional prizes. Megan’s final drink recipe - Farewell to Summer, included Loyal gin, Sambuca, Frangelico, vanilla, mango, blueberry,mint, lime and ginger beer.

“We’re so thrilled with the overall results of this year’s competition. Not only are so many previous competitors choosing to return to the competition, but we’re seeing so much new talent with the expansion of what is now 16 total competitors,” said Patti Colley, ORA Director of Strategic Programs and Events. “Hopefully, this means we’re offering a great competition with great prizes and the bartenders believe we’re helping to feature the best spirits for them to create dynamite cocktails. The energy surrounding the competition​, along with the audience, continues to grow and we are so happy with the support of so many industry partners that we’re already planning another exciting competition for September 26, 2018.” 

​Both Upshaw and Harris ​competed against ​14 other Oklahoma ​bartenders from ORA member restaurants. Each ​bartender was judged on taste and balance, originality, and drink and stage presentation. Other competing ​bartenders included Chris Barrett of Ludivine; Suzanne Boroughs of Yokozuna Downtown; Michael Cain of Pub W-South; April Carter of Joey’s Pizzeria; Jessica Dewane of Laffa, Tulsa; Tyler Eason of Mexico Joe’s; Rachel Custer of Pub W-Memorial; Rebecca Hargrove-Santos of Paseo Grill; Amber Harris of Whiskey Cake; Meghanne Hensley of The Pump Bar; D.J. Kauley of Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club; Kevin McCracken of Whiskey Chicks; Bryan Moyer of Picasso Café; and Austin Stallings of O Bar at Ambassador Hotel.

Judges consisted of industry professionals Jason Ewald, A Good Egg Dining Group; J Mays, Cafe 7; Jeffrey Cole, Coury Hospitality; and ​Molly Fleming,  The Journal Record. Marcus Tilley of Traditions Spirits served as emcee.

The Cocktail Shakedown was presented in partnership with Platinum Partners Traditions Spirits, Central Liquor, ​Carlisle Foodservice Products, Anheuser-Bush, Coca-Cola, Market Source; Gold Partner Oneida and Red Bull; Silver Partners Auto-Chlor System; Fidler Marketing, Forbes Heaver & Wallace, Inc., Heartland, Lasco; Championship Heat Partner Vault Ice; and Heat Partners Chambord, George Dickel Whisky, Henderson Coffee, Herradura Tequila, Jagermeister; Ocean Vodka, Old Forester, Tito’s Vodka and TX Whiskey with special thanks to Republic National Distributing Company and Southern Glazer’s, as well as emcee Marcus Tilley and the Tradition’s Spirits beverage operations team.  

What's Happening
Make plans now to be in Oklahoma City on November 6 for the annual Hirst Hospitality Awards. Help us recognize and honor the hardworking employees in the foodservice industry; there's nothing like the value of a good staff!
Thomas Upshaw of ​The Bunker Club in Oklahoma City took first place with his creation called ​The Horse Buck in the ​fourth annual Oklahoma Restaurant Association Cocktail Shakedown at the Oklahoma Restaurant Convention & Expo on ​August 31, 2017.
Chef Sarah Leavell of SMG Tulsa took first place in 20th annual Culinary Cook-Off at the Oklahoma Restaurant Convention & Expo on August 31, 2017.
The ORA Academy is back in 2017 with both a BOH/Culinary track and a FOH/Management track! The goal of the Academy is to offer continuing education and professional development to particular demographics of ORA’s membership. At the end of the year, if a student has attended all 4 sessions, they will be awarded an ORA Academy “Certificate of Knowledge” and be recognized in The Restaurateur magazine.
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