Small Bites

Gin Game

By Abby Weingarten / Photography By Chad Spencer | October 01, 2014
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gin game

Spirits savant Brad Coburn is famed for his exploits on the competitive drink-making circuit.

The Pangea Lounge owner continually represents Sarasota with his award-winning recipes, and in Tampa in August he took home a win at Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender event.

“I met a lot of like-minded industry trendsetters,” Coburn says. “It was an awesome experience.”

Coburn is known locally for creating unparalleled flavor experiences at Pangea. His bar backdrop resembles a chemistry lab with shelves of small-batch bottles, tiny jars of infusing liquors, and hand-cut ice cubes made from juices and herbs. In 2012 (two years after opening his downtown Sarasota bar), Coburn won the Infinium Spirits Cocktail Competition in St. Petersburg, beating out more than a dozen other drink makers from the Tampa Bay area.

The recent Bombay contest was held at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood in Tampa in cooperation with GQ magazine and the United States Bartenders’ Guild. Coburn and Nick Vaccaro from the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota’s Jack Dusty were among 10 Florida bartenders to be picked after a recipe submission and judged blind tasting. Coburn’s “Bohemian Sapphire” cocktail—with its Benedictine liqueur, Sauvignon Blanc and bitters—earned him an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas, Nevada.

“We were responsible for batching (premixing) 400 two-ounce drinks for the spectators to taste. One by one, the bartenders carried their items to make their cocktails on trays to the judging area where they competed to International Bartenders Association standards,” Coburn says. “I won this round and was chosen to represent Florida, and got to compete against all the other regional representatives for the United States and Canada (39 of us).”

At the host site (Encore at Wynn Las Vegas), Coburn did a morning standoff with bartenders from four other cities and was then shuttled off for a GQphoto shoot. Before his turn in front of the camera, Coburn (who admittedly perspires profusely) stood around in a hot warehouse and soaked the armpits of his shirt.

“I’m quite a sweater—which, apparently, isn’t good in high fashion. So they had to dry my soaked pits with a blow dryer for about 10 minutes and then lined my shirt with maxi pads so there would be no more pit stains,” Coburn says with a laugh. “I had to stand by a box fan until it was my turn for photos.”

At the welcome party later that evening (his shirt finally dry), Coburn learned he was not one of the final winners but was honored to have been a participant.

As Coburn says, “I’m glad I was able to shine a little more light on our little town.”

Pangea Lounge: 1564 Main St, Sarasota; 941-953-7111; pangealounge.com

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