OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Food and drink as far as the eye can see and the tongue can taste. You can find it at this year’s Oklahoma Restaurant Association Expo which made for the perfect backdrop to decide who would win the belt as Oklahoma’s best bartender.

This is the 8th year organizers like Patti Colley invited 8 barkeeps to their Cocktail Shakedown, chosen by their submitted recipes.

“Stiff drinks and stiff competition,” she smiles. “They choose the most original recipes and that develops what 8 people come to compete.”

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None of the chosen mixologists got to serve their specialties though. Each round featured a different spirit.

Contestants had to come up with a drink based on that with a whole refrigerator full of garnishes, plus other precious liquids to add in.

“All cocktails must have a minimum of three ingredients,” announced the MC.

5 minutes to prep, 10 minutes to mix five drinks for judges to sample.

8 contestants went down to 4. They were scored for taste, presentation, and a little for poise under pressure.

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4 went down to 2.

Colley says, “Last year, I think the points were miniscule between the winner and the runnerup.”

Avery Callarman works at the Jones Assembly and Dylan Kemp works at a bar called Milo at the Ellison.

They squared off in the big final featuring a sweet rum-based drink. They both got 10 minutes to prepare and another 10 minutes to mix.

These heavyweights used every second. The narrowest of margins decided the winner once again.

Dylan Kemp started working at Milo when the place first opened a year and a half ago. He’s not sure where the belt is going but he was happy to get it.

“Yeah,” he smiles. “This is a nice feather in my cap. My first one so I’m happy about it.”

The best bartender in Oklahoma for 2022 has a name and a trophy now.

The chemistry of what makes a good cocktail continues to provide inspiration for us all.

The Oklahoma Restaurant Association Expo for 2022 is August 17-18.

For more information, visit this link.