In a heated battle of the bartenders, Trea Melville of LuLu’s took home the title of 2015 Gulf Coast Bartender of the Year on Monday, Aug. 31 during the regional qualifier for the state competition on his home turf – LuLu’s – in Gulf Shores. In addition to his swift skills and accuracy, Melville impressed the judges with his exquisite signature cocktail, which entailed a cored Granny Smith apple with homemade caramel sauce. In the tight race, Joshua Lynn of The Hangout in Gulf Shores and Steven Varnes of NoJa in Mobile rounded out the top three.
“We here at LuLu’s are incredibly proud of Trae and all the participants from this event,” Dustin Smith, beverage manager at LuLu’s, said. “Trae is a proud father, a hard worker and puts his heart and soul into making his job one that makes our guests forget about their jobs for the time they spend with us here at LuLu’s. Last year, he finished in second place, so this year finishing first really means a lot to him and all of his LuLu’s family.”
The contest was sponsored by Old Forester and Sculpture Hospitality and hosted by the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance (ARHA) along with LuLu’s and Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. Prior to the event, professional bartenders were tasked with memorizing 10 cocktail recipes featuring Old Forester. Upon arrival, each competitor completed a multiple choice test on the recipes. During the competition, each contestant concocted three randomly selected cocktails as well as a signature drink of choice in just 10 minutes.
“Each bartender represented the Alabama Gulf Coast exceptionally well, showing off the diversity of the area’s culinary and bar scene,” said Joanie Flynn, vice president of marketing for the tourism bureau. “Trea excelled under pressure, and we are proud to again send a beach bartender to the state contest.”
As a regional winner, Melville received $200, a plaque and automatically advances to the coveted 2015 State Bartender of the Year Competition in Birmingham on Sept. 28.