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

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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. 

MO Bar + Lounge — Cocktails That Excite All Senses

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In this episode of Across the Bar, brought to you by the Foodable Network, we are bringing viewers into Miami luxury at the Mandarin Oriental. The getaway’s resident MO Bar + Lounge features floor-to-ceiling glass windows, welcoming a perfect view of the city skyline, and cocktails vibrant in color, taste and texture.

Bar Manager Steve Minor is doing major things in the cocktail game. In this episode, he shows off his perfected Cloud 9 cocktail (St. Germain, lychee/hibiscus mix, Prosecco, lychee-stuffed candied hibiscus), a Southern Swizzle (Bourbon, créme de pêche, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, peach nectar, mint, ginger beer, and bitters), and, for his final act, a cocktail off a “secret menu,” a Smoked Cuban Manhattan delivered in a steaming pot (smoked rum, house coffee bitters, simple syrup, orange peel).

Sneak Peek: Where to Find This Smoked Cuban Manhattan Cocktail

Miami is filled with culinary delight and cocktail deconstruction. With so much energy, it can be difficult to escape the city madness, even at the beach. But cross a short bridge in the Magic City’s Brickell neighborhood and revival awaits in Brickell Key. Its main resident? The 5-star waterfront Mandarin Oriental. Inside, you’ll find MO Bar & Lounge, where city lights pour in via the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and where local and traveling sophisticates are offered a combination of both traditional and innovative mixology.

Catch a sneak peek in the video above, where Bar Manager Steve Minor serves up a steaming Smoked Cuban Manhattan (in a pot, no less). And be sure to look out for the full “Across the Bar” episode, coming soon!