Prize-winning cocktails


Nine bartenders from Tahoe gathered for the West Shore cafe’s annual bartender contest on Feb. 21 to battle it out for the “Best of” title. There were two categories the bartenders prepared cocktails for: The People’s Choice, based on cocktails voted on and tasted by the participants that attended the competition, and the judged competition based on taste, smell and presentation.

Three local judges – Nicole Tyler, president of the Reno/Tahoe U.S. Bartenders Guild, Jason Ellefson of Southern Wine and Spirits, and Tahoe Weekly publisher Katherine E. Hill – voted for the winner of the best cocktail.


Bryce Tomberlin with his award-winning trio of cocktails.

Bryce Tomberlin of Truckee Tavern was the 1st place winner of the judged competition with his rendition of a Gimlet he called the “Foamy Palomy.” The cocktail was prepared with Don Julio Tequila, lime juice and sugar poured over a foamed ingredients made with Pavan, an orange liqueur, grapefruit juice and egg whites.

Tomberlin, a fan of nightcaps, bases many of his cocktails on characters and stories.

“I use a story to put people to bed,” he said of his creations.


“Bryce Tomberlin, a fan of nightcaps, bases many
of his cocktails on characters and stories.”


His hot cocktail he calls the “George Dickel the Jittery Squirrel,” was made with a cinnamon-infused George Dickel No. 12 whiskey, chocolate ganache and cold-brewed Dark Horse coffee. He also prepared “Alexander the Grasshopper.”

“I was going for a mint chocolate chip-flavored ice cream drink,” said Tomberlin.

His People’s Choice entry was “Basil’s Word,” a Tanqueray Gin and Basil Brandy cocktail. This was Tomlinson’s first cocktail competition and anniversary of his first year of tending bar.


The high-energy Amber Skallerud whips up her creations, taking 2nd place
in the competition and winning the People’s Choice award.

Hometown advantage went to People’s Choice winner Amber Skallerud, head bartender at West Shore cafe for four years.

“She killed it with the crowd. She pumped up the music and got everyone going,” said Tomberlin.

Her winning cocktail, “The Foxtail,” was prepared with a house-made Kiwi Sage Shrub that included fresh kiwi, sage leaves, sugar and white wine vinegar, cooked for 45 minutes and strained and added it to George Dickel Whiskey, fresh lime and a dash of bitters. Skallerud qualified the cocktail by telling the non-whiskey drinkers in the crowd, “This drink will make you drink whiskey.”

Skallerud came in 2nd place in the judging competition with the “KiChata,” a hot cocktail made with Don Julio Anejo Tequila, cinnamon vanilla syrup and vanilla rice milk, a drink called the “Crow’s Nest” made with Tanqueray Gin, Yellow Chartreuse, fresh lemon juice, rosemary syrup and egg whites poured over beet cinnamon ice spheres, and her final cocktail, “Chai Thymes,” a chai-infused vodka drink.


Ilona Martinez of the Peppermill bubbles over with pride,
taking 3rd place in the Bartender Competition.

Third place for the competition was awarded to Ilona Martinez of the Peppermill in Reno with her trio of entries featuring the “CoCo for The Don,” “Getting some … in Waterbury” and “Motorboatin’.”

Hill said about the day, “It was great to see the amazing and interesting creations that these bartenders came up with for the competition, which gave them the opportunity to expand on their artistry and creative talents.”

Interested in checking out these bartender’s fabulous creations? You can find Bryce Tomberlin at The Truckee Tavern in downtown Truckee, Skallerud at The West Shore cafe in Homewood and Martinez at the Peppermill.

Photos by Mael Passanesi
Priya Hutner is a writer, health and wellness consultant, and natural foods chef. Her business, The Seasoned Sage, focuses on wellness, conscious eating and healthy living. She offers healthy organic meals for her clients. She may be reached at or visit Visit to read more.