Guess who tied for first place during the Star of the Bar semifinals in Orlando last month? A couple of St. Petersburg bartenders who head the cocktail programs at The Mandarin Hide and soon-to-open Trophy Fish and Mandarin Heights — one of whom is no stranger to the national mixology competition.
In 2017, Morgan Zuch, formerly of Datz Restaurant Group, bested seven other contestants to secure her spot as a Star of the Bar finalist. But this year, Niall McCourt joins his colleague at Sunday’s main event in Chicago. They’ll battle it out with booze among four other finalists — plus a live audience and an impressive panel of judges, including Dale DeGroff — for $5,000 and the “Star of the Bar” title.
Presented by the United States Bartenders’ Guild and National Restaurant Association, Star of the Bar encouraged talented bartenders from across the country to apply for its competition in February with original cocktail recipes that showcased their bartending finesse. Forty contestants made it to the semifinal round, and Zuch and McCourt were the only drink-mixing duo from the same region to advance to the finals.
“To have both, Niall and Morgan, enter into a national bartending competition and make it to the final six contestants is an astonishing accomplishment as well as a testament to the dedication and mastery that they possess in their craft,” according to a statement from The Mandarin Hide. “The Mandarin Hide is so honored to have two such incredible bartenders on our team and wish them luck this weekend!”