Tampa bartender moves on as finalist in Star of the Bar showdown

A cocktail called Perky Peach landed Morgan Zuch of Datz in the mixology competition's finals.

click to enlarge Datz's Morgan Zuch is the first female bartender to win a Star of the Bar regional competition. - FotoNoggin
FotoNoggin
Datz's Morgan Zuch is the first female bartender to win a Star of the Bar regional competition.

Besting seven other competitors, Datz's Morgan Zuch has secured her spot as a Star of the Bar finalist. The Tampa bartender won the annual mixology showdown's Miami regional semifinals, recently hosted at Barton G. restaurant, with the Perky Peach, a tequila-based cocktail featuring the flavors of Tampa Bay.

The winning recipe — which consists of coffee-infused honey, créme de pêche, cold brew and orange bitters with a pickled peach garnish — is inspired by Zuch's trips to a St. Petersburg farmers' market, everything down to the smoked cold-brew ice sphere it's served over.

"With the Perky Peach, I wanted to recreate my favorite elements of the market," Zuch said in a statement. "The smoked ice sphere is meant to invoke the smells of the market and the cooking aromas from the outdoor vendors."

Served on a wooden board with whole coffee beans and fresh peaches, the cocktail's presentation stood out as well.

"I love coffee, which goes so well with peaches. The presentation adds to the aromatics of the drink and gives people an idea of the cocktail's taste profile," she said.

Star of the Bar, presented by the National Restaurant Association and United States Bartenders' Guild, pits bartenders in five culinary destinations — Boston, Chicago, Austin, San Francisco and Miami — against one another in live drink-making battles judged by a panel of locals. Zuch and the rest of the finalists will travel to Chicago for the main event on May 21 at BAR 17, a big beverage-alcohol event, to compete for the "Star of the Bar" title and $5,000 grand prize.

Charles Joly, the 2014 World Class Bartender of the Year, and Modern Mixologist author Tony Abou-Ganim are among this year's judges.

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