2021 Cognac Connection Challenge winners announced





Cognac continues to support US bartenders, awarding $10,000 and a trip to the region for 2021 winners

November 10, 2021 –  The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) — the entity promoting, protecting and developing the Cognac Geographical Indication and culture — is thrilled to share the results of the 2nd annual Cognac Connection Challenge bartender competition, co-sponsored by Speed Rack and VinePair, which received over 100 entries.

The Cognac Connection Challenge was created in 2020 to support US bartenders during the pandemic and give them the opportunity to share and expand their passion for mixology with cognac as the base spirit. This year, as the pandemic situation improved, an added bonus was made possible. The ten winning bartenders of 2021 will receive an in-person trip to Cognac, France in addition to a $1,000 cash stipend to further their education.

After carefully going through every single entry, the expert judge panel — Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix of Speed Rack, certified Cognac Educator Kellie Thorn and VinePair spirits writer Tim McKirdy — selected the 10 winning cocktails based on the artistry, creativity and flavor. The following ten bartenders best showcased the versatility of cognac and their tantalizing cocktail recipes were selected as the 2021 winners:

  1. Abigail Gullo — Seattle, WA
  2. Baylee Hopings, Bon Ton ATL — Atlanta, GA
  3. Carmin Garrett, Anna’s NOLA — New Orleans, LA
  4. Christina Mercado — Newport, RI
  5. Gabriel Noble, Dante — New York, NY
  6. Jacob Lesitsky, Skytop Lodge — Skytop, PA
  7. Jonathan Stanyard, Il Bistro — Seattle, WA
  8. Lauren Pellecchia — Cincinnati, OH
  9. Orestes Cruz — Miami, FL
  10. Shannyn Brandon, Jewel of the South — New Orleans, LA

*Winners listed in aphabetical order of first name

“As a Cognac educator, it’s rewarding to see bartenders embracing and understanding the versatility of the spirit,” shared Kellie Thorn, who also led the bartender webinar. She continued, “We received great entries this year and I had fun tasting their creations. It’s hard job but someone’s got to do it!!”

Speed Rack co-founders and spirit luminaries Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero commented, “After seeing and hearing how last year’s competition helped winners in a time of need, we were thrilled to partner with the BNIC again and excited to continue supporting our bartender community. What’s really exciting though? Through the entries we received, we are seeing cognac having a broader ‘seasonality’ than it used to. Bartenders seem to be honing in on taste profiles and using the expansive range of cognac styles to pair this spirit with cocktails year round.”

Bartenders entered the challenge by submitting an original cognac-based cocktail recipe, sharing their inspiration for the cocktail and what they’d learned about the spirit through the process. Recipes were judged on originality, creativity, technique, taste and appearance. Entrants also earned points by attending a virtual educational seminar and sharing their cocktails on social media.

A digital recipe book with the winning cocktails from the 2021 Cognac Connection competition will be available today on VinePair.com and the official Cognac Connection website. Winning bartenders will also be profiled on @CognacUSA social channels.

Visit CognacConnection.com for further updates and information about all things cognac.