The Roosevelt Room’s Justin Lavenue wins big in gin competition

Justin Lavenue has made a trio of different gin drinks while competing in the Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender competition.

Justin Lavenue has made a few original gin drinks while competing in the Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender competition.

Justin Lavenue has had a banner summer. A couple of months ago, he and his bartending partner opened the cocktail-focused Roosevelt Room on West Fifth Street, with plans to turn it into an even bigger bar — but that’s not all he’ll want to remember. He’s capped off the season with another notable milestone: Lavenue just won the Bombay Sapphire Gin competition, a cocktail-crafting throwdown that at one point pitted him against 27 other top bartenders from the U.S. and Canada.

“I’m truly speechless,” he said. “It’s been years of hard work leading up to this point, and I’m so happy that all the preparation has finally paid off! I’m enjoying it now but already looking ahead and getting ready for the global competition next year.”

Spirits competitions help bartenders hone their skills behind the bar and also give them exposure to others in the industry. The 9th Annual Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender competition is no different; he’s had to create a few varied gin drinks for it and met up with finalists from Montreal, San Francisco, New York and other big cities whose craft cocktail scenes are, arguably, much bigger and more developed than Austin’s.

His win means that in December, he’ll be on a cover of GQ magazine’s special “Men of the Year” issue. He’ll also advance to the global finals next year to vie for the next title of Bombay Sapphire World’s Most Imaginative Bartender.

In the meantime, try his winning cocktail yourself — it’s got several steps to it but is, clearly, well worth the time and effort to make it.

The Poet’s Muse

Justin Lavenue is one of Zagat's 30 Under 30 for his attention to detail behind the bar.

Justin Lavenue recently won Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition.

2 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin

3/4 oz. Poet’s Cordial (see below)

3/4 oz. Yuzu-Lime blend (see below)

2 dashes Umami tincture (see below)

Hard shaken over a large ice cube. Strained into a large coupe glass with the large ice cube dropped in. Garnished with a lime peel rosette. Served on a Zen Garden.

Poet’s Cordial

1 L Pistachio Milk (1 park unsalted pistachio meat, 2 parts water, blended and strained)

800 ml wildflower honey

2 cinnamon sticks

4 Star Anise pods

1 vanilla bean

2 tbsp. Matcha Green Tea Powder

Combine ingredients, mix well and let rest for three days. Fine strain and bottle.

Citrus Blend

15 parts fresh lime juice

1 part Yuzu concentrate

Mix well and bottle.

Umami Tincture

30 shiitake mushrooms, chopped

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

6 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin

1 tbsp. Himalayan salt

Saute the mushrooms in butter for 10 minutes. Add Bombay Sapphire and salt and steep for another 10 minutes. Strain mushrooms off and freeze to let fats coagulate. Strain off fats and bottle.

— Justin Lavenue, the Roosevelt Room


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