By Zach Boudreaux
Garrison Waite of Lock & Key Whiskey Bar was the aqua-vitae-victor of Sunday night’s Bar Fight at Olive or Twist.
Joseph Gore of The Cove, Hannah Elgin of Flemming’s, and Jessica Torres of Beausoleil competed alongside Waite to win the crowd’s palate.
In the first round, contestants had to craft a drink using peanut butter and bananas and their choice of liquor and mixers. The competing bartenders had only seven minutes in each of the three rounds to plan, concoct, and taste.
“At Lock & Key we use a peanut butter simple syrup, so we get that flavor and I know exactly how it‘s going to act, but I‘ve never worked with peanut butter by itself,” said Waite. “I was legitimately concerned I would be eliminated in the first round.”
Despite his doubt, he advanced to the next challenge, which had two required ingredients: jet puffed marshmallow and chocolate earthquake rocky road cake. The second round also included one rule for the first time in Bar Fight history according to owner Josh Duke: no vodka.
“I felt like Vodka would make the drink too easy,” said Duke. “It’d just be a bunch of s’mores shots.”
Once the votes were tallied, Duke announced from his perch on the rolling ladder behind the bar the two remaining competitors, Torres and Waites, and their secret ingredients for the round: damson plum jelly and cayenne pepper.
“The last drink was my favorite because it was really the most traditional. It was the easiest for me,” said Sunday’s winner, Waite, who in two weeks will go on to the Bar Fight championship finals.
Waite has been serving Baton Rouge beverages for nearly a decade. He’s spent time at The Bulldog, The Cove and as beverage manager at Hollywood Casino for nearly two years. He also worked at Olive or Twist, which is where he said he got his start in mixology.
“I had always been a hobbyist but never delved into it professionally,” said Waite. “[Duke] gave me my entrance to the craft cocktail world.”
You can find Waite now behind the bar at Lock and Key Whiskey Bar on Corporate Blvd where he thoroughly enjoys his work. “Arthur Lauck was so gracious to give me a position and a great opportunity at Lock and Key. He’s given me a level of autonomy I’ve never had anywhere.” He grinned and added, “As long as I don’t spend all of his money and the cocktails are whisky based.”