POIPU — Homemade mountain apple juice, lilikoi kombucha, fresh lime juice, lemongrass simple syrup and two varieties of Koloa Rum, garnished with a slice of starfruit, toasted macadamia nut and a piece of dry ice for a dazzling presentation.
That’s how Nilo Badua wanted to make his Plantation Mai Tai — inspired by his family who traveled from the Philippines to Hawaii to work for the sugarcane plantations — to beat out competitors in a 10-week battle at the 2015 RumFire Poipu Beach Annual Best Bartender competition.
This year, the sponsors are on the hunt for Kauai’s 2016 best bartender in the second competition brought to the Garden Isle by Koloa Rum at the RumFire Poipu Beach inside the Sheraton Kauai Resort.
The 15-week competition will bring together the island’s best food and beverage industry professionals to challenge each other using all six varieties of Koloa Rum by mixing and creating unique cocktails to earn the “Best Bartender.”
Patrons of RumFire Poipu Beach will have the opportunity to cast their vote to determine the winner of each round on Fridays between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. beginning tonight. Participants can enjoy an 8-ounce portion of each contestant’s Koloa Rum-based cocktail for $16.
Jeanne Toulon, spokeswoman for Koloa Rum Company, said this is the first time prize money was offered.
“We jumped at the chance. We wanted to showcase all the bartenders on island who are using Koloa Rum to create these fabulous cocktails,” Toulon said. “Everybody is getting into it. It happened on the mainland a while back and now it’s happening on Hawaii and Kauai. The amount of creations never stop. As long as someone can imagine it, they can create it. We are just really exited and are hoping that all the bartenders come together and create something fabulous.”
Badua, who is a bartender at multiple restaurants in Kauai, said he’s competed on multiple Hawaiian islands. He’ll be competing again at this year’s competition for Lava Lava Beach Club Kauai.
“I have a few drinks planned and am excited to be mixing new ingredients,” he said. “It felt really good to win last year. It’s something that I love to do, making drinks.”
Badua, who represented Kalapaki Joe’s in last year’s competition, was awarded two nights in an Ocean Front Suite at Sheraton Kauai Resort and a $100 dining credit at RumFire Poipu Beach.
Sixteen finalists were recruited, said June Cappiello, spokeswoman for Sheraton Kauai Resort. The drinks will be scored on taste and creativity.
“It will be two bartenders per week who will battle head-to-head kind of like basketball’s sweet 16 tournament, with a little bit of a twist,” Cappiello said. “Each week features a mystery ingredient.”
Each contestant of the competition can put as many ingredients into their drinks as they want, but the secret ingredient won’t be revealed to them until the day prior to the Friday of the tournament, Cappiello said.
“It’s a mystery, so we can’t reveal it just yet,” she said. “It could be anything.”
Leading up to the final round, RumFire will ask its patrons a favor.
“While they dine at RumFire, patrons can ask their waiter to be included in competition,” Cappiello said.
A winner will be named Kauai’s Best Bartender in the final round on Nov. 18.