Sweet Liberty, John Lermayer Finalists for 2017 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards

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Tales of the Cocktail, the annual New Orleans celebration of spirits and industry professionals, announced the finalists for its annual Spirited Awards. The awards were founded in 2007 to celebrate excellence in the cocktail and spirits industries.

For the second year in a row, Miami Beach's Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company and its partner John Lermayer have been nominated for several awards. Last year, Sweet Liberty won the Spirited Award for Best New American Cocktail Bar.

This year, the bar is a finalist in the Best American High Volume Bar category, as is Harvard & Stone (Los Angeles), Honeycut (Los Angeles), and the NoMad Bar (New York City). Bars with seating capacity of 100 or more quality.

The SoBe bar is also up for Best American Bar Team. Others in the running are Herbs and Rye (Las Vegas), the NoMad Bar (New York City), and Williams & Graham (Denver).

Lermayer is a finalist for American Bartender of the Year, as is Jeff Bell of PDT (New York City), Kevin Diedrich of Pacific Cocktail Haven (San Francisco), and Yael Vengroff of the Spare Room (Los Angeles). This is the fifth time Lermayer has been nominated for the award and the second time he's been a finalist.

He's elated with the bar's nods, saying that a Spirited Award is the bar industry's version of a James Beard. The barman is quick to point out that, to him, the most important award is for Best American Bar Team. "It's about the servers, the cooks, the runners, the bartenders, and the management. There's great joy in announcing they've been recognized as the best in the world."

The key to Sweet Liberty's success, according to its partner, is the ability to serve solid food and drink without pretense. "The bar has a very high likability factor. It still remains a great industry hub — the place all roads lead to."

Lermayer says he and his team work hard to make the bar "effortlessly cool," as one writer described it. "That was the best compliment someone has given my bar," he says.

Ann Tuennerman, founder of Tales of the Cocktail, says it's no surprise that Sweet Liberty was tagged for several awards at the annual celebration of spirits. "Miami has always been a city for drinks. But there has been a real push into the cocktail arts over the past decade. The characterization of the city just being clubs is giving way to a more diverse cocktail scene with old favorites like the Broken Shaker and new spots like Sweet Liberty. Paul [Tuennerman] and I were in Miami in February and were blown away by the talent in the city. Miami isn’t just on the rise; it’s already one of the top cocktail cities in the country."

The Tales maven says the awards are decided by a panel of industry peers. "It’s why you’ll see so much anticipation and excitement in the room the night of the Spirited Awards. Everyone knows what it means to win one. I can’t wait to see who takes home the awards this year."

Miami hopes Sweet Liberty and John Lermayer sweep the categories.

The Spirited Awards ceremony will take place Saturday, July 22, at the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans.

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