Bar Leather Apron's Justin Park named 'Best Technical' bartender
Two years after winning both the technical and best overall categories at the 2014 United States Bartenders’ Guild Shake it Up! competition, Bar Leather Apron owner Justin Park was back in Las Vegas to try and do it again.
While he wasn’t successful at winning both categories again this year — Park previously told this reporter that the USBG changed its rules so it couldn’t happen a second time — he did succeed in repeating as the best technical bartender on Tuesday night.
“(I’m) honored to be recognized for my technical ability,” he said. “That's something I focus on and work on every single night at Bar Leather Apron.
“Taste is subjective, but technicality is something that is tangible. I'm proud to represent Hawaii and ... bring this recognition back home.”
The Shake it Up! contest is held during the annual Nightclub and Bar Show in Vegas; the winning bartender is widely considered to be the best overall mixologist in the United States. For 2016, that person is Chicago-based bartender Egor Polonskiy, who currently serves as beverage director at Untitled Supper Club.
Park, 34, was previously the bar manager at Manifest in Chinatown and has more than a decade of experience in the bar industry. He raised his profile tremendously after winning the title of World’s Best Mai Tai in 2012 and went on to place fourth overall in the World Cocktail Championship in 2014 after his double win in Vegas.
Up next for Park is a repeat selection as a regional finalist in the USBG’s World Class contest, which he competed in last year and was one of three bartenders from his region to advance to the national finals. While he was joined as a finalist in 2015 by fellow Hawaii-based bartenders Alejandro Alvarado and Dave Newman, Park is the only bartender with Hawaii ties selected to this year’s western regional final, which will take place in Honolulu on April 12. Three people will advance to the U.S. finals set for June in Washington, DC and the winner of that round will move on to the global finals in Miami later this year.
Want to congratulate Park in person? Look for him behind the bar at Bar Leather Apron in the Topa Financial Center this weekend; email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations.
Jason Genegabus has covered the local entertainment, nightlife, music and bar scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at email@example.com.