More Cowbell!

In a major surprise upset, Freiburg, Germany-based bartender Alexander Mayer took the top honors at the 2015 Made in GSA Competition. What’s the secret to his success? Well, in this case a good story and some traditional ingredients came together to produce a great new drink idea. Altogether, it’s a fitting fairytale finish for a competition highlighting the best of what the bars in the German language territories of Germany, Switzerland and Austria have to offer today and a look ahead at what tomorrow could bring.

Giffard Alkoholfrei

Unbelievable! What we have here is a Hollywood-worthy story of how a wildcard paved the way for 26-year-old Alexander Mayer to even reach the finals of the 3rd Made in GSA Competition held recently in Berlin. The identities of the contest applicants were kept from the judges for their preliminary selection of the finalists. After they had tried all the submitted drink recipes, Alexander, who mans the bar at Passage 46 in Freiburg, was notified that he had just missed making the 12-contestant shortlist by a hair, coming in at unlucky No. 13.

Fate intervenes on Mayer’s behalf

Despite disappointing setbacks like this, sometimes destiny seems to have other plans. In Alexander Mayer’s case, opportunity knocked when one of the twelve finalists dropped out. With his foot now back in the door, Alexander kicked it wide open with his unique “Cowbell” cocktail on the night of the competition at the Fragrances Bar in Berlin’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, wowing the host Arnd Henning Heissen and the all-star team of expert judges: Thomas Huhn (Les Trois Rois, Basel), Kan Zuo (The Sign Lounge, Vienna), Oliver Ebert (Lost in Grub Street & Becketts Kopf, Berlin). When the scores were finally tallied up, Alexander’s “Cowbell” was the resounding winner, coming in a full 14 points ahead of even the second place winner.

Freiburg must be doing something right, because second place at this year’s Made In GSA also went to a Freiburg native. Jan Jehli, a proud son of Freiburg himself, recently moved his bartending skills to “The Parlour” in Frankfurt, Germany. His “Schwarzwald Säuerling” impressed the judges enough to guarantee him the No. 2 prize consisting of tickets for two to the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS 2016 and the upcoming 2015 Bar Convent Berlin, along with enough cash to make the most of both events.

Stephan Körner from Düsseldorf’s Breidenbacher Hof took the third place honors and a € 500 voucher for the Cocktailian Online Shop. The talented-but-humble bartender already knows what will top his shopping list. “More than anything I want new books. ‘Knowledge is power’ as they say, and I have the feeling that I still have a lot to learn”, Körner summed up.

Cheers, and ready for takeoff!

This summer, Made in GSA winner Alex Mayer can look forward to packing a bag and hearing “Fasten your seatbelts, please”! Mayer will be joined by a MIXOLOGY rep for a six-day whirlwind tour of London, Paris and Rome, three of Europe’s most important cocktail cities, and of course their bars. The dark horse winner reacted enthusiastically saying, “An unbelievable prize! I’m especially looking forward to the bars in London, because I’ve never been there before!”

Mayer’s “Cowbell” was inspired by his rural childhood, melding traditional ingredients together with today’s cutting edge mixing concepts, all the while surrounded by the sound of actual cowbells ringing around the room. His mixture of Schladerer Red Williams Pear Brandy, Belsazar White Vermouth, sugar syrup, fresh buttermilk and a locally produced pine oil essence really stirred things up at the competition. And “stirred” is the right word. Much to the astonishment of those on hand, the “Cowbell” is stirred instead of shaken, despite the buttermilk in the mix. Mayer explains, “I tried out every possible mixing method in advance. And although shaking might seem to make the most sense at first, the Cowbell’s mouthfeel is actually best when it’s carefully stirred”.

Top talent, excellent drinks and an amazed juror

All twelve of this year’s finalists stood out and literally raised the “bar”! Coming from a total of 10 cities, the contestants, many of them younger bar professionals, demonstrated to the jury and Made In GSA host MIXOLOGY publisher Helmut Adam the top-shelf quality of today’s bar culture in cities big and small throughout the GSA region. Jury member Kan Zuo was visibly impressed and commented, “I’ve judged a number of competitions in the past, but I’ve never learned as much as I have here. I’m amazed both by the possibilities our regional products offer and the incredible creativity and expertise with which the candidates work with them. This is really a very special competition!”

No decision has been made yet on the location of next year’s Made in GSA Competition final. But for Alex Mayer and the 11 other finalists the conclusion of this year’s award ceremony was celebrated with an extensive tour of Berlin’s own bars, naturally accompanied by Mayer’s mascot and good luck charm, his cowbell! And not unlike down on the farm when the cattle head out to graze, Alex Mayer’s cowbell was also last heard in the early light of the breaking day!


Original article by Nils Wrage. Translated by Jeff Collier.


Foto: All photos via Katja Hiendlmayer


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Wir, Meininger Verlag GmbH (Firmensitz: Deutschland), würden gerne mit externen Diensten personenbezogene Daten verarbeiten. Dies ist für die Nutzung der Website nicht notwendig, ermöglicht uns aber eine noch engere Interaktion mit Ihnen. Falls gewünscht, treffen Sie bitte eine Auswahl: