The local bar and cocktail scene continues to evolve and improve, with various bar concepts popping up left and right and local bartenders joining (and winning) cocktail competitions abroad. In line with this vibrant trend in the nightlife industry, many events showcase cocktails and the personalities who make them.

Recognizing the rise of craft culture in the metro, Bar Fight, a series created by FOMO Concept provides a platform for popular bars, bartenders, and their patrons to gather under one roof in an exciting competition.

“Contrary to the name, the Bar Fight series has created camaraderie and support amongst them. We believe that it can push their limits further in showcasing their talent and unique product offering as they present (to the judges and crowd) each of their own concocted cocktail that fits the assigned base spirit,” shares Michiko Soriano of FOMO Concepts. “As it continues, we hope it will keep Manila on its toes for what’s next to come!”

Three celebrated bartenders from some of Manila’s finest bars had a head-to-head cocktail battle in Bar Fight’s first round at Waterside Restaurant in Solaire Resort and Casino last July 24. Since it was also National Tequila Day, it was only fitting that the spirit featured was Tequila Ocho (100% agave tequila).

Tequila Ocho (100% agave tequila)

Contenders from OTO, Waterside, and ABV came with their own announcer to hype them up, and get the crowd excited for the presentation. Each made a tequila cocktail to impress the judges–DrinkManila.com’s Tatum Ancheta and Icy Mariñas, mixologist Enzo Lim, and Apotheke Craft Spirits’ Simon Côté. The event was open to public, and their votes make up 40% of the whole competition, they were also given stubs to claim the cocktails and voting card so they could cast a vote for their favorite one. For Php 999 + 10% service charge, the guest got to taste all the three cocktails during the Bar Fight and enjoy the nacho bar buffet.

FOMO Concepts’ Michiko Soriano and Deanna Rubiano, DrinkManila.com’s Icy Mariñas, Oto’s Kate Osmillo,Solaire’s O’Shea, DrinkManila.com’s Tatum Ancheta, mixologist Enzo Lim, and Apotheke Craft Spirits’ Simon Côté

First up was OTO’s bartender Kate Osmillo, who served up the light and fruity The Chola Special. Made with Tequila Ocho Reposado, homemade hibiscus tea syrup (dried hibiscus flowers steeped in water for 15 mins before slow boiled for 2 hours before adding sugar), lemon juice, topped with Prosecco Tosso, a spray of Los Siete Misterios Mezcal (Doba Yej) spray, and garnished with fresh hibiscus flower, this cocktail does not drown the taste of the tequila; but instead lets it shines through. Plus the mezcal spray gave the drink an extra smokiness that was pleasant to the nose and palate.

OTO’s bartender Kate Osmillo
Kate tops her drink with Prosecco
The Chola Special

Waterside sent the big guns by having Solaire’s Senior Manager for Beverage Michael O’Shea to represent them with his cocktail, Smoke in the Fields. This berry forward drink made of Tequila Ocho Reposado, Joven Mezcal, homemade galangal lime juice, homemade Pinot Noir simple syrup, muddled strawberries, and lime, served in a glass rimmed with crushed dried strawberries and salt, with fresh strawberries and a sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper as garnish. His experience showed in his polished presentation, and he chose complementary flavors for his cocktail. The sweet tartness of the strawberry was balanced by the smoky heat of the mezcal, with a peppery finish at the back of the throat.

Solaire’s Senior Manager for Beverage Michael O’Shea

Smoke in the Fields

Rounding out the competition was ABV’s Abby Quilal-Lan and her entry, Sand Castle, which was made with Tequila Ocho Reposado, lime juice, homemade dulce de leche syrup, Original Willisauer Kernobst (apple-pear brandy), Aperol, garnished with pandan leaves, and sprinkled with toasted mix of desiccated coconut, cinnamon, and sugar. She performed a magic trick when she pulled the cocktails from behind the bar and served that instead of the drinks she was making (reminiscent of ABV’s Lester Ligon’s style). The dessert-type cocktail was sweet and thick, with flavors that didn’t quite come together.

ABV’s Abby Quilal-Lan
Abby finishing her Sand Castle drink
Sand Castle

All the contenders brought their A game, but in the end, there could only be one winner. In an exciting twist, once the points were tallied, OTO’s Kate Osmilio and Waterside’s Michael O’Shea ended up a tie, and had to make a Margarita on the spot for the judges as tie-breaker. Michael went first, creating a margarita with Tequila Ocho Reposado, lime, lemon, a splash of orange juice, elderflower syrup, and agave syrup. Kate made a margarita with a spicy kick, using Tequila Ocho Silver, red chili (labuyo), calamansi juice, and agave syrup. The judges deliberated and shared their thoughts on the cocktails with the crowd. While Kate’s cocktail was more adventurous and Michael’s was a bit safe, the judges chose the drink that they would drink more. Waterside’s Michael O’Shea ended up as the winner of round one of Bar Fight.

Michael prepares his glass of Margarita
Michael created his Margarita with Tequila Ocho Reposado, lime, lemon, a splash of orange juice, elderflower syrup, and agave syrup
Kate finishes her Margarita
Kate used Tequila Ocho Silver, red chili (labuyo), calamansi juice, and agave syrup

Having landed in Manila just two months ago, this win was a great way for Michael to introduce himself to the local scene. “When I heard about all the local bartenders who are really crushing it out here, that’s what I want to be a part of. Participating with these girls was amazing for me,” he says. Emphasizing Bar Fight’s thrust community and camaraderie in the bar industry instead of competition, he continues, “I want to support the craft as much as possible. If I’m helping you be successful, you’re helping us become successful. We’re all successful together. It’s not about us being more successful or making better cocktails. Really, as we all grow together, we’ll all going to be successful together.”

Michael thanking the crowd

Apart from bragging rights, the winner’s bar shall play host for the next Bar Fight round. Michael will be defending his turf, Waterside Restaurant Solaire, against two new bartenders from leading establishments in the metro in the next Bar Fight, featuring Plantation Pineapple Rum on National Rum Day, August 16.

The Bar Fight series is created by FOMO Concepts, an end-to-end service, boutique events agency that aims to disrupt the mold of traditional events.

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