The Texas Heritage Master of the Mule competition took place April 24 at Rose Gold Cocktail Den. Sponsored by Ketel One Vodka, the competition challenged Houston-area bartenders to draw upon their heritage to create a unique version of a mule. Although it's typically made with only three simple ingredients – vodka, lime and ginger beer – contestants could use up to five ingredients for their entry.
The seven bartenders battling it out to advance to the next level were Edwin Hui (Stone’s Throw), Jose Gil (Brasserie du Parc), Chris Deas (Nick’s Fish Dive and Oyster Bar), Sarah Tompkins Gutierrez (JR’s Bar & Grill), Marla Martinez (Etoile Cusine et Bar), Patrick Abalos (Sidebar The Woodlands) and Ryan Perry (Brasserie du Parc). The emcee for the evening was South Texas Ketel One brand ambassador Jacob Fairchild.
Each bartender was given time to prep before stepping up to the bar. One by one the competitors carefully crafted their mules for the thirsty crowd. Some had more flair than others, but it was evident they were all passionate about the task at hand. Mule variations throughout the evening included a range of flavors: chocolate, orange, beet, celery, cardamom and sweet potato. Most entries included the use of Fever Tree Ginger Beer, but a few contestants chose to add Topo Chico.
After seven rounds, the winners were announced. First place went to Marla Martinez, who based her drink on natural medicine and the healing elements of beets and ginger. Martinez used Ketel One Vodka, roasted red beet juice, lemon and ginger shrub, bitters, and Topo Chico. Second-place winner Edwin Hui combined his Cantonese and NYC heritage, along with a little inspiration from his wife, to create the Jade Dragon Mule. His mule contained Ketel One Vodka, jade celery syrup, lime, Dragon Fire tincture and Fever Tree Ginger beer.
The People’s Choice award went to Sarah Tompkins Gutierrez for her blood orange Sarah Unicorn. The ten-year industry veteran is the only female bartender at JR’s, Houston’s oldest LGBT bar. According to Gutierrez, her inspiration for the drink was blood, orange and unicorn tears.
“I wanted to stay true to the original mule recipe,” said Gutierrez.
Swapping out lime for blood orange, her popular mule consisted of only three ingredients — Ketel One Oranje, blood orange nectar and Fever Tree Ginger Beer.
The first- and second-place winners will advance to the state finals in Dallas on June 14. There they will face off against the winners of the Central Texas and North Texas regionals to see who will take home the title of the Texas Master of the Mule.
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