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HomeHot News2021 Cognac Connection Challenge Winners Announced: Abigail Gullo,  Baylee Hopings

2021 Cognac Connection Challenge Winners Announced: Abigail Gullo,  Baylee Hopings

2021 Cognac Connection Challenge Winners Announced: Abigail Gullo, Baylee Hopings see the full list.

Cognac continues to support US bartenders, awarding $10,000 and a trip to the region for 2021 winners #CognacConnection

The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) — the entity promoting, protecting and developing the Cognac Geographical Indication and culture — is thrilled to share the results of the

2nd Annual Cognac Connection Challenge

bartender competition, co-sponsored by Speed Rack and VinePair, which received over 100 entries.

Abigail Gullo’s Mountains to the Sea – VSOP Cognac meets Zerbenz, Sherry and coconut 🥥 fat washed vermouth.
2oz Cognac VSOP
.75 oz coconut fat washed Blanc vermouth
.5 oz amontillado Sherry
.5 oz Zerbenz alpine liqueur
Stir, strain and serve in a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary found growing all over the PNW.



The Cognac Connection Challenge was created in 2020 to support US bartenders during the pandemic and give them the opportunity to share and expand their passion for mixology with cognac as the base spirit.

Gabe Noble’s BONNE SANTÉ (Good Health) | cognac, toasted fig purée, Pedro Ximinez Sherry, orange liqueur, lemon

This year, as the pandemic situation improved, an added bonus was made possible. The ten winning bartenders of 2021 will receive an in-person trip to Cognac, France in addition to a $1,000 cash stipend to further their education.

After carefully going through every single entry, the expert judge panel:

Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix of Speed Rack, certified Cognac Educator Kellie Thorn and VinePair spirits writer Tim McKirdy

selected the 10 winning cocktails based on the artistry, creativity and flavor.

Carmin Garrett’s “Dreams For The Future”
Pierre Ferrand Cognac, lemon, chamomile grappa, & pink peppercorn honey

The following ten bartenders best showcased the versatility of cognac and their tantalizing cocktail recipes were selected as the 2021 winners:

  1. Abigail Gullo — Seattle, WA
  2. Baylee Hopings, Bon Ton ATL — Atlanta, GA
  3. Carmin Garrett, Anna’s NOLA — New Orleans, LA
  4. Christina Mercado — Newport, RI
  5. Gabriel Noble, Dante — New York, NY
  6. Jacob Lesitsky, Skytop Lodge — Skytop, PA
  7. Jonathan Stanyard, Il Bistro — Seattle, WA
  8. Lauren Pellecchia — Cincinnati, OH
  9. Orestes Cruz — Miami, FL
  10. Shannon Brandon, Jewel of the South — New Orleans, LA

“As a Cognac educator, it’s rewarding to see bartenders embracing and understanding the versatility of the spirit,”

shared Kellie Thorn

who also led the bartender webinar. She continued, “We received great entries this year and I had fun tasting their creations. It’s hard job but someone’s got to do it!!”

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Speed Rack co-founders and spirit luminaries Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero commented:

“After seeing and hearing how last year’s competition helped winners in a time of need, we were thrilled to partner with the BNIC again and excited to continue supporting our bartender community…

…What’s really exciting though? Through the entries we received, we are seeing cognac having a broader ‘seasonality’ than it used to. Bartenders seem to be honing in on taste profiles and using the expansive range of cognac styles to pair this spirit with cocktails year round.”

Baylee Hopings – “Caribbean Dream” is a delicate cognac sipper with tropical notes that helps transport you to the islands!! It features @hinecognacs H by Hine— a VSOP cognac blended specifically for bartenders to use in cocktails.

Bartenders entered the challenge by submitting an original cognac-based cocktail recipe, sharing their inspiration for the cocktail and what they’d learned about the spirit through the process. Recipes were judged on originality, creativity, technique, taste and appearance.

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Entrants also earned points by attending a virtual educational seminar and sharing their cocktails on social media.

A digital recipe book with the winning cocktails from the 2021 Cognac Connection competition will be available today on and the official Cognac Connection website. Winning bartenders will also be profiled on @CognacUSA social channels.

Visit for further updates and information about all things cognac.

Joe Wehinger
Joe Wehinger (nicknamed Joe Winger) has written for over 20 years about the business of lifestyle and entertainment. Joe is an entertainment producer, media entrepreneur, public speaker, and C-level consultant who owns businesses in entertainment, lifestyle, tourism and publishing. He is an award-winning filmmaker, published author, member of the Directors Guild of America, International Food Travel Wine Authors Association, WSET Level 2 Wine student, WSET Level 2 Cocktail student, member of the LA Wine Writers. Email to: [email protected]
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