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Columbus bartender named as one of the 22 ‘most imaginative’ within the US and Canada

Columbus bartender named as one of the 22 ‘most imaginative’ within the US and Canada

Jack McLaughlin

A local cocktail whiz was tapped as one of the most imaginative bartenders in the US and Canada, according to an international contest.

Chris Marek, after being named among the top 30 bartenders in the contest’s Central Region, was announced yesterday as one of the 22 semifinalists for the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation’s Most Imaginative Bartender contest of 2024.

Marek is currently a bartender at Citizens Trust, after previously working at Light of the Seven Matchsticks.

The contest, which is now in its 15th year of operation, pulls talented mixologists from both the United States and Canada. This year, the 22 semi-finalists will eventually be winnowed down to 12, as a panel of judges will evaluate “the bartenders’ creative outlets, cocktails, and how the two are linked,” the contest’s website reads.


The 12 finalists will be invited to the Bombay Sapphire distillery in England, and each will receive a $3,000 grant that they can use to draw up their own creative business plan. The finalist with the highest combined score after a pair of “finals challenges” will be named 2024’s Most Imaginative Bartender, and will receive a $30,000 grant.

“Most imaginative is a competition based around bartenders passions outside of mixing drinks and how it influences their bartneding style.  My passion is magic,” Marek said. “For the submission you submit a recipe with either a video, photo or essay about how your drink and passion are cohesive to one another. Now for semifinals we will present to judges in person with that drink.”

Other Columbus bartenders have been involved in the contest throughout the years as well, including David Yee, a co-owner of the soon-to-open Brewery District spot Cobra, who was a regional finalist in 2020, and owner of Law Bird Annie Williams Pierce, who won the contest outright in 2017.

Marek noted his indebtedness to both Yee and former Light of the Seven Matchsticks lead PJ Ford, and nodded at the rest of the Columbus community along the way.

“There are a lot of people doing cool stuff with drinks in the city and I love learning from all of them and getting to try their drinks,” he said. “The columbus bartending community is pretty cool and I glad to be a part of it and get to represent it at Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender.”

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