Miami's Best Bartenders Stir Up Competition With the 'Black Box Challenge'

Video Produced by Denise Toledo

On this episode of "Across the Bar," we did something a little bit different. We went down to Miami to round up some of the best bartenders in the business and had them show off their skills in a black box challenge. With an ever-changing beverage industry, we wanted to get into the minds of top mixologists to see what trends they’ve been seeing and how they keep up with customer demands.

For this challenge, we were lucky enough to have Byblos host us at their beautiful lounge in Miami’s South Beach. Here, host Paul Barron connects with Steve Minor of MO Bar, Isaac Grillo of Repour Bar, and Eddie Fuentes of Cocktail Cartel Co.

So, what is the black box challenge? Well, we filled up three black boxes with three different sets of mystery ingredients and asked our bartenders to make the tastiest cocktails they could. They did not let us down! Using fruits, pure cane syrups, fresh herbs, and the best spirits, Steve, Isaac and Eddie showed us what the best mixologists do to create the perfect cocktail for their guests.

Steve starts us off strong pulling out his iSi tank, which he uses for rapid infusions. Combining brandy, cinnamon sticks, cold brew concentrate, Grand Marnier, and bitters, Steve creates a powerful base to combine with his lemonade syrup.

Isaac impresses the crew with his flair. His mixology style uses a little less measuring and a little more eyeballing. With a high bar IQ, Isaac knows what it takes to make a polished beverage down to the last detail, like lemon essence on the rim of his glasses.

In the midst of their mixing, the bartenders talk trends like infusions and flavors.

“Another fruit-forward DaVinci Pomegranate syrup. Looks delectable. Made with pure cane sugar which is delicious,” Issac notes while examining his ingredients.

“Pomegranate...I see that in a lot of drinks now,” Paul replies.

As Eddie steps up to the bar, he gets a curveball with a blackberry blood orange cane sugar syrup, which he combines with a sweet and sour mix, orange juice, Aperol, and mint. Adding a splash of Prosecco pulls it all together.

Watch the full episode to learn how these top-quality bartender turn mystery ingredients into high end cocktails.