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Quite the trio: Ryan Perry, Justin Ware, Patrick Abalos.

Image: Lauro Rojas

Every year the nation’s best bartenders gather and compete for the right to represent the United States in the World Class competition with hopes of winning the prestigious title of World Class Bartender of the Year. Taking place in Berlin this fall, the competition is set to be fierce. With Houston’s flourishing bar scene, we have no shortage of talented bartenders, and three of Houston’s very best are among the 12 Southwest Regional finalists. They will be put to the test with the challenges of Modern Frontier, Speed Round, and Tasting Menu/Cocktail Flight. Meet the contenders vying to bring the title home to Houston.

Justin Ware, Johnny’s Gold Brick

  • Amount of time in the industry: I have been working behind the bar since I was 18, and currently working my 11th year. I've been professionally bartending for the past four years.
  • Amount of years competing: This will be my third year. I started with local competitions and moved into the bigger national competitions. This will be my third year in World Class.
  • What drink have you prepared and what goes into it: My submission was an El Presidente-inspired cocktail, and consisted of 1.5 oz Ron Zacapa, .75 oz coffee infused Sweet Vermouth, .5 oz Amaro Montenegro, and .25 oz Dry Curacao. Combine, stir to dilute, strain into a chilled cocktail coupe, garnish with an orange zest.
  • What event is your specialty: I personally enjoy the speed round. It pushes you to create difficult drinks and put them out in the most efficient way while staying hospitable and entertaining.

Patrick Abalos, South Bank Seafood Bar

  • Amount of time in the industry: I’ve been in the industry for 11 years. I started as a dishwasher and worked my way up to cook, then sous chef. I went to college to get my degree in hotel and restaurant management. I worked in the food and beverage side of hotels for the past four or five years and three to four years behind the bar and taking over beverage programs.
  • Amount of years competing: This is my second year competing as well as competing in World Class. Before that I’ve done a few local competitions, my first being Espolon Cocktail Fights.
  • What drink have you prepared and what goes into it: It’s a Swizzle variation with Ciroc Pineapple, which you don’t really think of a vodka drink with a tiki Swizzle. It has Ciroc Pinapple, Aperol, a little orange curaco, lime juice, lemon juice, cinnamon syrup, and bit of orgeat. It’s a nice stirred, boozy cocktail, with a tropical flair.
  • What event is your specialty: I like World Class as a whole because it’s geared more towards industry people, essentially connecting with individuals that have an understanding of what mixology means.

Ryan Perry, Presidio

  • Amount of time in the industry: In this capacity I’ve been in the industry since 2012.
  • Amount of years competing: I’ve been competing since 2013.
  • What drink have you prepared and what goes into it: It's a drink called La Minatora, and contains Ron Zacapa 23, Ruby Port, Coffee Heering liquer, turbinado syrup, lemon juice and mole bitters. It's one of my favorite cocktails that I had ever come up with. It’s a good desert cocktail to pair with a brownie [and] ice cream.
  • What event is your specialty: I am really excited for the Modern Frontier cocktail. As soon as they told me what they wanted from us the idea popped in my head. I knew I wanted to work with a Sazerac and essentially present it in an séance setting all the while incorporating the theme and story.
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