POIPU — For two hours Friday night, Curren Mizumoto and Nilo Badua each made about 300 drinks in the bid to be named Kauai’s Best Bartender.
These are not simple drinks with a few ingredients.
“It takes a long time, more than just a regular drink,” Badua said.
The winner, based on people’s choice and a judges panel, was Mizumoto and his creation called “E‘ Ku‘u Inu.”
“I can’t believe I beat Nilo,” a relieved and happy Mizumoto said later. “He’s the best right now, bro. He’s a legend, this guy.”
“Nilo is one of the best. It’s nice to go against someone at that level,” he added.
Badua, the 2015 winner, returned the compliment.
“I think his drink is amazing. He’s a competitor, and he’s good man,” he said. “I hope next year we’ll do better but tonight, Curren is the better man.”
For winning, Mizumoto received $4,000, while Badua took home $1,000.
It was a crazy busy night at RumFire Poipu Beach at the Sheraton Kauai Resort for the third annual competition presented by Koloa Rum.
Sixteen finalists from the island’s food and beverage industry were challenged to showcase original, Koloa Rum-based cocktails. Starting in August, two competitors went head-to-head each week at RumFire to showcase their original, handcrafted Koloa Rum cocktails, utilizing a different mystery ingredient every round.
Mizumoto defeated Kaina Kahaunaele in the semifinals, while Badua defeated Rachel Parker.
The final round allowed the contestants to create their best Koloa Rum cocktail, with no mystery ingredient involved.
Ingredients in Mizumoto’s E ‘Ku‘u Inu were Koloa White Rum, dry curacao, fresh basil and mint juice, fresh watermelon juice, lavender-infused syrup, fresh lime juice and a pinch of jalapeno.
Badua’s “Coco’s Nest” used Koloa Coconut Rum, Koloa White Rum, yoghurt liqueur, fresh young coconut infused with basil, vanilla beans and Tahitian limes.
People could try each of the eight-ounce drinks for $16 — and try them they did.
Badua, with Ryan Hessler as his barback, and Mizumoto, with Jensen Sipe acting as his second, could barely keep up with demand as they had to both turn out drinks and talk story with fans.
“There were so many people we were running out of ingredients, so we had to make adjustments,” Mizumoto said.
Last year’s winner, Jennifer Bryant of The Club of Kukuiula, did not defend her title as she gave birth to a daughter three months ago.
She said both Badua, who works at Lava Lava Beach Club, and Mizumoto, who works at The Lanai, were great competitors and both were creative.
“I really liked Curren’s drink. It was really balanced. It had a lot of good flavors, it had all the different components in it,” she said. “It kind of hit on every single taste bud, salty, sweet.
“Nilo’s was great too. I like coconut and he used a lot of really cool garnishes on there,” she said.
Asked if she could predict the winner, Bryant said, “If I had to chose one, I always go for balance.”
Badua, of Puhi, has been bartending about 15 years. He enjoys meeting and connecting with people and continues creating different drinks.
“I’m still learning every day,” he said.
Mizumoto, from Pakala on the Westside, has been bartending for 11 years.
He likes to take time to make drinks that taste and look good.
“I get to make people happy,” he said.
Hessler called it an incredible night. He said Badua was prepared and had things planned out.
“It’s tough competition but I know the drink he made is a quality drink,” Hessler said.
Sipe, who made it to the quarterfinals of the competition, said it was overwhelming at one point trying to turn out the drinks as they even ran out of glassware.
Like Hessler, he said the competition was going to be close.
“Nilo always makes a great drink,” Sipe said. “I wouldn’t expect anything less from him.”
When Nikki Munroe, Koloa Rum sales and marketing specialist, announced the winner was Mizumoto, the crowd erupted in wild cheers, even chanting, “Curren, Curren, Curren!”
That was followed by both bartenders sharing a hug, then receiving more hugs, high fives and posing for pictures.
Both had plans to party later that night and likely into the next day.
“I’m just going to grab a couple of drinks,” Mizumoto said.
“Yeah, we’re going to spend it tonight,” a grinning Badua said, as people standing nearby erupted in cheers.