Dayton-area mixologists to battle it out in March

Miami Valley Restaurant Association announces date for this year’s Battle of the Bartenders.

Our region has plenty of bars and restaurants stocked with their fair share of talented bartenders to serve up liquid refreshments with whatever is on the menu.

A celebration of local mixologists will return Wednesday, March 8 after taking three years off when the COVID-19 pandemic shut events down.

“The eighth annual Buckeye Vodka Battle of the Bartenders will be back and bigger and better than ever in 2023 after taking a break since the last one took place in 2020,” said Amy Zahora, executive director of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association. “This event is the first in Dayton to truly focus and shine a spotlight on the bartenders at our restaurants. The bartenders in town are quite talented and make some really delicious cocktails. It’s an art knowing which ingredients and mixers will make a delicious cocktail and these are the folks who think outside of the box to make art behind the bar.”

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

After selling out the Sneak Peek to Winter Restaurant Week last week, Zahora believes this will be a popular ticket that will sell out quickly.

So far she says she has nine restaurants committed and believes 10 more will have signed up by March 8.

Chappys Social House, El Meson, Meadowlark, Mr. Boro’s Tavern, Watermark Restaurant and Wheat Penny Oven and Bar are all past participants who have committed to the return to the competition. The Last Queen in Enon, Loose Ends Brewing in Centerville and Smith’s Boathouse in Troy are all new to the event this year.

In addition to each restaurant featuring drinks they also have great food on hand to pair with their cocktail creations.

In 2020 14 restaurants and bartenders showed up vying for bragging rights that came with some very nice prizes and awards.

The majority of the cocktails that were presented that night were very creative. All had to feature Buckeye Vodka as the main mixer and many hinted to the promise of warm weather with cocktails that had a summery bent. The competition turned out to be as stiff as the drinks being poured.

Having served as one of the judges I can say that the entries were impressive.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Here’s what rose to the top that night:

First Place - Best Cocktail: The Winds

This was a love it or hate it proposition with beets being one of the main ingredients. Even so the six judges fell in love with the Winds “Gold Blooded” cocktail make with a beet, blood orange, carrot and apple juice mixture zipped up with fresh ginger, a rosemary and lemon infused vodka, with a foam topper made with Saint Germain Elderflower liqueur and blood orange. It was bright in flavor and sparkled thanks to a dusting of gold flakes. The balance of the drink was perfect and something the judges continued to come back to throughout the event. The beets did not overwhelm, but the sweetness complimented the other ingredients perfectly and brought out beautiful color to the cocktail.

215 Xenia Ave., Yellow Springs

937-767-1144 or

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Second Place - Best Cocktail: Meadowlark

Meadowlark’s cocktail “An Apple A Day” was made with Buckeye Vodka infused with apple, rosemary and lemon zest, a rosemary simple syrup, apple brandy, lemon juice, a little golden balsamic vinegar and topped with a sparkling cava. It was an easy sipper that was light, refreshing and something you would definitely order up again.

5531 Far Hills Ave., Dayton

937-434-4750 or

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Third Place - Best Cocktail: El Meson

Did you know that pomelo is the largest fruit in the citrus family? You do now, and you would have if you were at the event trying El Meson’s cocktail made with a red peppercorn infused simple syrup mixed with Buckeye vodka, fresh squeezed pomelo and dry ice that injected a nice dramatic effect. It was refreshing with a little kick that kept you coming back for more.

903 Dixie Dr., Dayton

937-859-8229 or

Best Pairing: Meadowlark

Chef Elizabeth Wiley and her team from Meadowlark paired a house made pimento cheese with smoked sausage on a cracker with bartender Carolyn Porter’s creation to make a tasty homage to the South. The food was rich and full and the cocktail was light and flavorful with the apple and rosemary playing off the cheese and sausage perfectly.

5531 Far Hills Ave., Dayton

937-434-4750 or

People’s Choice: Roost Modern Italian

This was one of my favorites but it didn’t rise to the top for the panel of judges. The cocktail “Kyoto Sunset” was made with sage infused vodka mixed with a yuzu puree, lillet rose and peach bitters. It was delicious on its own and a great compliment to the Roost meatball topped with a mint puree with diced Persian cucumber and pickled shallots.

524 E. Fifth St., Dayton

937-222-3100 or

The Buckeye Vodka Battle of the Bartenders event that has long served as a reminder and celebration of just how important bartenders are will be back in six weeks. I can’t wait for this exciting and tasty competition to return.


What: Miami Valley Restaurant Association’s 8th annual Buckeye Vodka Battle of the Bartenders

When: Wednesday, March 8. VIP ticket holders can enter at 6 p.m.; General admission begins at 6:30 p.m.

Where: The Steam Plant, 617 E. Third St., Dayton

Cost: Tickets are $45 in advance until Monday, March 6. Afterward, tickets will be $55. Ticket includes one Buckeye Vodka flight card for four cocktail tastings, food from each restaurant and one voting chip for People’s Choice winner. A limited number of $65 VIP tickets will be sold that include arrival at 6 p.m., food from each participating restaurant and two Buckeye Vodka Flight Cards for tastings from eight restaurants and two voting chips for People’s Choice winner. Additional cocktails can be purchased.

More info and complete list of restaurants: (937) 461-MVRA or

Past Battle of the Bartenders winners:

2020: Defending Champion: Roland Eliason, The Winds “Gold Blooded”

2019: Carolyn Porter, Wheat Penny “Dutchess of Earl”

2018: Brock McKibben, Wheat Penny " Merchant’s Wife”

2017: Bill Castro, El Meson “Tamiami Miami”

2016: Nikolaus Hunt, Coco’s Bistro “Coco’s Ruby Slipper”

2015: Amber Brady, Lily’s Bistro “Rosemary’s Babee”

2014: Dustin Wade, Meadowlark “The Root of All Evil”

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