The 7th-annual Arizona Cocktail Weekend closed with a festive, fiery bartending competition on Feb. 19 as the Valley’s own Joshua James won the 2018 Last Slinger Standing, and brought the award back to Arizona for the first time since 2016.
James is head mixologist and co-owner of The Clever Koi in both Phoenix and Gilbert.
Created on the fly after James and his fellow finalist (Chanel Godwin-McMaken of The Henry) were presented with the surprise required ingredients (Hendrick’s Gin and Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth) and surprise technique (each cocktail must incorporate a smoker gun), James was inspired by this classic riff on a Manhattan that’s often considered the “the father of the Martini.”
“As soon as the secret ingredients and technique were revealed, I immediately thought of making a version of a Martinez because it’s such a classic, well-balanced cocktail that would pair well with the flavors of smoked hickory chips,” James explained.
Starting with gin, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering liqueur, and both Angostura bitters and Angostura orange bitters, the mixture is shaken over ice, strained into a decanter and hickory smoked, then poured over a single oversized Artisan Ice cube inside an Old Fashioned cocktail glass.
“I’m ecstatic to bring the Last Slinger Standing trophy home to Arizona,” James said. “It feels like a fairytale ending, and we’re already clearing out a spot behind the bar to display it at Clever Koi in Phoenix,” 4236 N. Central Ave.