It was a clean sweep for the Ironbound’s Casa d’Paco, with their “Paco’s Passion” being named Newark’s signature cocktail by a panel of celebrity judges and as People’s Choice. The inaugural Cocktail Challenge, launched in partnership by the Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau (GNCVB), the Ironbound Business Improvement District (IBID) and All Points West Distillery, featured innovative entries from 15 bars and restaurants in the Greater Newark area. Casa d’Paco’s owner, Angel Leston, took home a custom-made, one-of-a-kind trophy designed by Newark’s Glassroots in addition to the title. Runner up was The Station Bar at the Element Hotel in Harrison, who received one out of three votes from the judges for their “Ferry Street Old Fashioned.”
The competition kicked off in October with bartenders creating original libations containing at least one or more of locally crafted spirits by All Points West Distillery. Their Bone Black Vodka, Cathouse Gin and All Points West Malt and Grain Pot Still Whiskey are handcrafted in small batches in Newark’s Ironbound. The top 5 vote getters, Newark’s BurgerBound, Casa d’Paco, Mompou, Nico Kitchen + Bar and The Station Bar at the Element Hotel in Harrison, competed in a Grand Finale Event at Clement’s Place, where the boisterous crowd showed their appreciation and approval for all of the finalists.
Other participants in the challenge included Ah Pizz, Catas, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Dutch’s Lounge, Eleven Clinton, Fornos of Spain, Greenroom, Hell’s Kitchen Lounge, Kilkenny Alehouse and Pour Abbey’s Bar & Grill.
Online and social media voting over the past few months determined the people’s favorite. Judges Amanda-Kathryn aka RamblesofRed, columnist for Metropolis Nights Magazine, Rashaun Hall, Creator and Co-Host of ‘Shot Caller’ podcast, and professional mixologist Danny Childs, the spirits columnist for Edible Jersey Magazine, made the final decision from among the top 5 vote-getters at the Grand Finale Event.
Distillery owner Gil Spaier said all of the participating establishments demonstrated creativity with their cocktails. “In addition to bringing out new flavors and experiences from the spirits, the fun, Newark-inspired names helped make the cocktails and the challenge, which we hope will be an annual event, memorable for everyone involved.”
“This competition kickstarted our efforts to keep Newark’s corporate workforce in the area after business hours,” said GNCVB CEO Karin Aaron. “As we enter the warmer months, we look forward to furthering our collaborations with these establishments.”
“With several of the finalists located off of Ferry Street, the heart of Newark’s Ironbound, the challenge took people deeper into the district than many had ever traveled,” concluded Seth A. Grossman, the IBID’s Executive Director. “But more importantly, many new people learned about the wide range of dining and entertainment options that exist throughout the City of Newark because of this effort.”