Local Bartender Wins Prestigious Cocktail Award Despite Controversy

NEW YORK – The James Beard foundation announced today that local bartender/mixologist Lee Edwards has one the very first Beard award for best original cocktail for his Highland Honey Sour.

Edwards is the first recipient of the award classification, established by the James Beard Foundation in 2008, despite multiple nominations for other cocktails over the past 6 years. Edwards is the beverage director for Yellow Rocket Concepts and created the cocktail for Big Orange Midtown, one of the four bar programs he oversees.

“I believe the blend of honey and whiskey represents the pinnacle of the beverage world. I wanted to create a cocktail that honored my favorite combination,” Edwards says. “What makes the drink is the truffle honey that I age in a climate controlled environment for 18 months to create the perfect balance of sour and sweetness. I then add that to a single malt scotch made by Scottish monks who only produce one barrel every 15 year. A lot of work and thought went into this.”

The rest of the drink features: Allspice Dram and Laphroaig 10 rinse, Honey Syrup, Egg White, Dalwhinnie 15 Year Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Dolin Génépi, Fresh Lemon Juice, Angostura Bitters, and what Edwards calls his special bartender juju juice. Edwards warns drinkers to be patient, the entire cocktail takes over 30 minutes to prepare.

The cocktail however is not without controversy. Some claim the cocktail’s original maker is Edward’s employee Jarrod Johnson. Johnson recently rose to fame after winning an award for top bartender in Little Rock. The James Beard foundation stipulates that the original creator of the cocktail can win the award. The foundation was unable to find enough evidence to support the claim.

“Several of us local bartenders were hanging around after hours. Jarrod had the basic ingredients sitting around that ended up making up the drink,” South on Main mixologist David Burnette tells us. “We had all had a bit too much to drink and he just started throwing random stuff together and made essentially what is Lee’s drink. The next day Lee tries to copy it, called it his own, and then started the process to nominate himself for the Beard award. He didn’t even like honey whiskey before then.”

The cocktail has limited availability, Big Orange Midtown says this is their third best-selling bar drink among holiday shoppers from out of town behind Boone’s Farm Blackberry, and Miller Light.

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Local Bartender Wins Prestigious Cocktail Award Despite Controversy