New Jersey’s premier mixologists—armed with sweet, sour, savory and spicy
ingredients—vie to win the second Iron Shaker bartender competition. by Tara Nurin
THE MOVERS BEHIND THE SHAKERS: The Iron Shaker competition was produced by R&R Marketing in partnership with New Jersey Monthly. Top-shelf sponsors included
Belvedere Vodka, Hennessy cognac, Chandon sparkling wine, Ardbeg single malt Scotch, 10 Cane rum, Prairie Organic Gin, Centinela Tequila and Grand Marnier liqueur.
COTTON CANDY, POP ROCKS, house-made
blackberry hot sauce and sweet-pea purée.
These were among the ingredients and
garnishes that bartender John Jansma
swirled in or sprinkled atop the winning
cocktails he devised for this year’s Iron
Shaker, an annual competition to find the
best bartender in New Jersey.
Jansma, who normally holds sway
behind the bar at Restaurant Serenade in
Chatham, was among eight hopefuls in the
final round of the statewide competition
on October 9 at Atlantic City’s Trump Taj
Mahal. The finalists were chosen in a pre-
vious round, four from the northern New
Jersey semifinals at Lulu’s in the W Hobo-
ken hotel, and four from the southern
semis at the Downtown in Red Bank. The
second annual competition was organized
by West Caldwell-based R&R Marketing
and sponsored by New Jersey Monthly.
Armed with a cotton candy machine,
an aerolatte milk frother and a Ninja-brand professional blender, Jansma won
or tied for first place in each of the four
categories: sweet, sour, savory and spicy.
“Winning the competition will help
me share my recipes and ideas so others
can have some fun,” said Jansma as he
accepted his trophy, a magnum of Moët
& Chandon and a $1,000 American
Express gift card.
A panel of experts judged the mix-
ologists’ creations, as did guests who
purchased tickets for the event. Judges
Deborah Smith of the website Jersey
Bites, cocktail expert and author Warren
Bobrow, and Montclair Food & Wine Fes-
tival cofounder Melody Kettle expressed
delight over some of the innovations.
Second-place winner Jonas Koep of
& Prince in Montclair lit a cedar plank
interspersed with spoonfuls of palate-