2022 US Cognac Connection Challenge winners announcedPress release

For the third consecutive year, the BNIC continues to support US bartenders – awarding $1,000 to ten finalists and a trip to the region for three grand prize winners. 

September 16, 2022 – The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) — the entity promoting, protecting and developing the Cognac Geographical Indication and culture — is excited to announce the results of the 3rd annual Cognac Connection Challenge bartender competition, in partnership with Speed Rack and VinePair, which received almost 200 entries, the most ever entered.

The Cognac Connection Challenge was created in 2020 to support US bartenders during the pandemic and give them the opportunity to expand their knowledge of Cognac and share their passion for mixology. This year, the ten finalists will receive a $1,000 cash stipend to further their professional education. Additionally, three grand prize winners will also be invited to an in-person trip to Cognac, France to experience the spirit and region firsthand later this year.

After the difficult task of going through every single entry, the expert judge panel—Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix of Speed Rack, certified Cognac Educator Kellie Thorn and VinePair managing editor Tim McKirdy—selected the ten winning cocktails based on the artistry, creativity and flavor. The following ten bartenders best showcased the versatility of Cognac and their original cocktail recipes were selected as the 2022 winners:

1. Grand Prize — Grant Jacobs (Los Angeles, CA)
2. Grand Prize — Sarah Troxell (Galveston, TX)
3. Grand Prize — John Ware (New York, NY)
4. Finalist — Justin Brody (Portland, OR)
5. Finalist — Nat Froikin (Chicago, IL)
6. Finalist — William Patton (Washington, DC)
7. Finalist — Nicole Salicetti (New York, NY)
8. Finalist — Mark Sassi (Seattle, WA)
9. Finalist — James Wieland (Milwaukee, WI)
10. Finalist — Tara Yadgir (Chandler, AZ)

Speed Rack co-founders and spirit luminaries Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero commented, “We are thrilled to see how much the competition has grown over the past three years. It has been a pleasure working with the BNIC again to continue supporting and engaging with our bartender community. What’s really exciting though? Seeing the creativity of bartenders across the country through the recipes we received. From chamomile to coffee, sherry to chartreuse, it was inspiring to go through so many delicious submissions.”

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.

“It brings me great joy to spread the word of Cognac which is often an underrated spirit category,” certified Cognac Educator, Kellie Thorn said. She also led the bartender webinar, a mandatory component of the competition. She continued, “It’s rewarding to see bartenders embracing and understanding the versatility of the spirit. It wasn’t easy selecting the winners; we received some amazing entries this year!!”

A digital recipe book with the winning cocktails from the 2022 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.

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Tiffany Hoang | tiffany@teuwen.com
Stephanie Teuwen | stephanie@teuwen.com
MelRose Buckler | melrose@teuwen.com