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Take a tour of the BAR stars

Here’s a peek at what’s bubbling up this year at the BAR Stage

Celebrity seekers will want to look beyond the cooking demonstrations to see some industry stars. This year, the BAR Stage at Lakeside Center will host Jon Taffer from Bar Rescue, plus celebrity mixologists and up-and-comers.

Taffer, the host and executive producer of the popular series Bar Rescue, will meet and chat with attendees at Booth #11356 on Monday at 11:00 a.m., hosted by Sculpture Hospitality, a Toronto-based company providing bar inventory control solutions.

Demonstrating their own star power, cocktail creators will compete for the title of Star of the Bar®. After practicing—and exhibiting—their skills on the BAR Stage throughout the day, the six finalists from across the country will prepare their best recipes at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Emcee Charles Joly, mixologist and founder of Crafthouse Cocktails, will provide color commentary while a panel of experts judge the finalists’ technique, presentation, and, of course, the drinks’ flavor. Judges include master mixologists Tony Abou-Ganim, Elayne Duff, Dale DeGroff, and Agostino Perrone.

Prior to the competition, Abou-Ganim will take his turn as host, leading a panel discussion of some of these experts on the Art of Hospitality (Sunday at 2:30 on the BAR Stage). The discussion with DeGroff, Duff, and Joly will focus on how to improve the overall bar experience, including offering great food and service, engaging guests, and doing so consistently.

Other unique education sessions on the BAR Stage include:

  • Creativity At Large: Facilitating and Executing Cocktail Programs for Large Events While Maintaining Creativity, at which Blue Plate Catering Lead Mixologist Lov Carpenter will share how to create and serve batched cocktails while keeping a “made for me” appeal, and staying on a tight budget.
  • Photographing Cocktails for Social Media, a session on lighting, framing, and editing great pictures for Instagram and other platforms, presented by Leigh Loftus, founder and CEO of We Are Loftus, a media firm with an emphasis on professional photography for the hotel and restaurant industries.


Many BAR attendees will consider the innovative ideas and new products to be the stars of the Show. Those professionals may be intrigued by the BAR Stage session An Ocean of Cocktail Innovation! Neutral Spirits and Sugar Kelp Infusions, where Johnson & Wales University Associate Professor James Griffin will provide a hands-on demonstration and tasting of kelp-infused cocktails, a trend coming to America from Scotland and England.

If kelp cocktails seem too far out, attendees will find plenty of educational demonstrations and tastings on wine, draught beer, whiskey, tequila, brandy cocktails, and other spirits—some provided by stars in the restaurant chain world. For instance, Steve Brooks, director of purchasing, IT, and beverage development, Tumbleweed Tex Mex Grill and Margarita Bar; and Emily Wines, vice president of wine and beverage experience, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants.

The BAR Stage will also offer plenty of business-building topics beyond the menu, such as training, sales strategies, and staff diversity.

Beyond the stage, BAR exhibitors from small distilleries and microbrewers to tech innovators plan their own educational and sampling experiences. A review of exhibitors suggests we should watch for cocktails in solid form: frozen cubes, Jell-O shots, popsicles, slushies, and even ice cream.

This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®

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