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Matt Tobey is more than just a bartender—he’s the award-winning, cocktail-slinging mixologist at District American Kitchen and Wine Bar. And he’ll be battling six other bartenders this Sunday, Feb. 9 in the Devour Phoenix Bartending Competition at Crescent Ballroom.
Up against other well-known workers of the craft, Tobey will be participating for the third year in a row in the competition to create the Best Cocktail of the Valley.
“Being that it is my third year, I feel that I know the competition well,” he said. “I know the amount of talent that I’m competing against, and I’ve done a lot to prepare for it, so I feel pretty confident.”
Tobey said the event is pretty fast-paced and intense, but that it’s not really about the competition. He’s just happy to be representing Downtown and District American Kitchen and Wine Bar.
What sets these mixologists apart from the rest? They’ve mastered and embraced their delicate craft, which demands a mature pallet and creative mind.
Making sure to taste each spirits’ distinct flavor, Tobey said, “When I come up with a concept for a drink that I want to create, I highlight certain flavor profiles and expand on them.”
As a true master of the art should, Tobey tries everything and is constantly in the hotel’s fourth floor garden tasting different herbs and brainstorming new concoctions, he said.
For the Devour Phoenix event, Tobey was asked to create a cocktail with one of his favorite spirits, the locally distilled Copper City Bourbon, which was released last year by the Arizona Distilling Co. and is the first bourbon to be produced in Arizona since Prohibition.
After two months of experimenting, the “Copper District” was born, featuring an impressive mix of Copper City Bourbon, Blood Orange Bitters, Thatcher Elderflower Liquor, House-made Brandied Cherry Syrup, stirred together and garnished with lemon rind and Brandied Cherry.
And if that wasn’t enough to make you drop what you’re doing and snag your ticket to the Devour Competition then this will: Tickets include a taste of each and every handcrafted cocktail at the event.
But don’t worry if you can’t make it to the show, the signature “Copper District” is a regular feature on the District cocktail menu. Better hurry, though, because Tobey plans to revamp the menu with lighter drinks come this summer. And if they’re anything like his famous Schreiner’s bacon-infused Hog Nog, last year’s winner of the Spirits of the Season holiday cocktail competition, then they’re sure to be the talk of the town.
*Photo provided by District American Kitchen and Wine Bar