Written by Dewayne Evans:
Jonathan Franco a 24 year old bartender from my favorite place/SpeakEasy in harlem "La Bodega 47 Social Club" was crowned the Best Bartender in Upper Manhattan at the "Uptown Battle of the Bars" competition held at Harlem Tavern. The competition, created by Harlem Park to Park and sponsored by Hennessy V.S & Hendricks Gin., included 28 of uptown’s top bars who all created original cocktails featuring the sponsor spirits and after two weeks of voting that took place on social media the finals featured the top 11 bartenders with the highest vote tally.
Franco entered the finale with the third highest number of Instagram votes/likes (547) received for his cocktails during the voting/sampling phase of the competition (Cove Lounge’s Bryan Yabroudy came in first with 708 votes, followed by Tina Ferrera of Heights Tavern with 629 votes). He competed against 10 other bartenders from Harlem and Washington Heights/Inwood in front of a crowd of 200 supporters from each neighborhood. Judges included professional mixologist, Joseph Solis; Hendricks Gin Global Brand Ambassador, Jim Ryan; Uptown Magazine Founder/CEO, Len Burnett; and Bravo TV's Blood, Sweat and Heels, Mica Hughes.
The first round of 11 contenders was narrowed down to 4 finalists who included:
Jonathan Franco - La Bodega 47, 161 Lenox @ 118th St.
Roni Hickerson - Harlem Public, 3612 Broadway @159th St.
Bryan Yabroudy -Cove Lounge, 325 Lenox @ 126th St.
Djo Sanou - 5 and Diamond, 2072 Frederick Douglas @ 112th
Franco went on to compete in the third and final round against 2nd place winner Roni Hickerson of Harlem Public in West Harlem (also a finalist in last year's Uptown Battle of the Bars) using the mystery ingredient Yuzu (a tart citrus fruit from Asia, hybrid of grapefruit and mandarin orange). The Finals featured a bevy of great cocktails that featured the two amazing spirits with Jonathan's drink being crowned the winning cocktail.
Jonathan was awarded prizes that included a bottle of Hennessy XO from brand sponsor Hennessy, as well as a professional leather bartenders tool kit, from sponsor Hendricks Gin.