HARLEM — Who's the best bartender uptown?
More than 30 mixologists and bartenders from bars in East Harlem, West Harlem, Central Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood will duke it out this month for the right to be crowned in the first Uptown Battle of the Bars competition.
"A good bartender is engaging, personable and knows how to make a good drink first and foremost," said celebrity judge Bevy Smith, who is a Bravo television host and life-long Harlem resident.
Visitors to the bars where the competition is taking place from now through Aug. 21 will have a chance to sample the drink concoctions and vote for their favorite cocktails on Instagram @Uptown Battle.
So far, more than 1,000 people have voted for their favorite cocktail on Instagram @UptownBattle — and the early contenders include Cove Lounge on Lenox Avenue in Central Harlem, Harley's Smokeshack on E. 116th Street in East Harlem and Covo Trattoria on West 135th Street in West Harlem.
The top three bartenders will face off in a public mix-off on Aug. 26 at Harlem Tavern, where Smith, along with journalist Jenny Adams, will judge the final three bartenders based on their performance in two 15-minute rounds.
In the first round, the finalists will have to create an original cocktail they feel best represents their neighborhood. In the second round, the contestants will have to create a cocktail using a surprise secret ingredient.
Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, executive director of Harlem Park to Park, which organized the event with Karl Franz, owner of Harlem speakeasy 67 Orange and Good Ice Marketing, said the event grew out of last year's Harlem Battle of the Bars event.
The earlier competition included only 10 bars but did so well that other bars expressed interest in participating this year.
"Not long ago you couldn't do something like this," said Evans-Hendricks. "West Harlem, East Harlem and Inwood all have new businesses popping up."
Uptown's bar scene has taken off in recent years. In West Harlem alone there's the newly-opened 9A Kitchen & Lounge, Harlem Public and The Grange Bar & Eatery.
Not only are there more places, said Franz, a noted mixologist, the drinks are getting better.
"Harlem has lagged behind other neighborhoods so it's great to seeing it catch up," he said. There are bartenders up here starting to take their craft seriously and create great drinks."
At this point, the title is anyone's to claim. But whoever snags the title, the real winners are uptown's neighborhoods and bars, said Evans-Hendricks.
"It's great just to see all of the bars packed and people staying in their neighborhoods," she said.
Tickets to the finale on Aug. 26 at Harlem Tavern cost $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Admission includes discounted drink and appetizer specials and original cocktail samples. Tickets may be purchased at www.uptownbattleofbars.eventbrite.com orVisit https://www.facebook.com/harlemparktopark for more information on participating bars.