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Columbus cocktail pro advances to final round of Bombay Sapphire’s ‘Most Imaginative Bartender’ competition

Columbus cocktail pro advances to final round of Bombay Sapphire’s ‘Most Imaginative Bartender’ competition

Jack McLaughlin

A Columbus bartender is making magic in a glass, and now the rest of the country is taking notice.

Chris Marek, beverage director at The Citizens Trust, was named one of 12 finalists in the 2023 Tales of the Cocktail Foundation’s Most Imaginative Bartender contest.

Marek was named one of the 30 Central Region bartenders selected for the contest in February, before moving on to the semifinal round, which saw 22 contestants from across the United States and Canada.


The final round will take place this coming April at the Bombay Sapphire headquarters in London.

“It is amazing on so many levels to be in the finals, I am so excited to spend more time with the other finalists in London and Orlando. One of the best parts of these competitions is meeting other bartenders from other parts of the world who have different perspectives on bartending but are just as passionate about it,” Marek said. “I’m also excited to represent Columbus. I think there are a lot of great bars and bartenders in this city, and being able to showcase a small part of that on an international competition scale is amazing.”

Marek, who told 614Now about his passion for magic in an interview earlier this year, incorporated it into his semifinalist submission, which was titled Suspension of Disbelief. The cocktail features Bombay Cru, Japanese scotch, acid-adjusted Mandarian orange juice and more, but, as he noted, the drink itself was only part of the submission.

Suspension of Belief, photo courtesy of Most Imaginative Bartender
Chris Marek, photo courtesy of Most Imaginative Bartender

“I gave a seven minute speech while performing my favorite magic trick, Card to wallet. During the speech, I talked about how magic only works with a suspension of disbelief. An agreement between the audience and the magician that we both know none of this is real, and we’re going to put that aside and enjoy it all the same,” he said. “In bartending, I see a similar agreement between the bartender and the guest.  A lot of craft cocktailing now can consist of using ingredients most people haven’t heard of and having to guide them through what this might taste like.”

The lead man behind The Citizens Trust bar is the one of multiple Columbus bartenders in who have made a major push in the contest. Alex Chein, a co-owner of Cobra, was a finalist in 2016, and fellow Cobra co-owner David Yee was a regional finalist in 2020, Annie Williams, co-owner of Law Bird, won the Most Imaginative Bartender contest outright in 2017.

Marek himself recognized just how much the Columbus service industry community has rallied behind him throughout the competition as well.

“Lastly, I’d just like to thank all the people who helped me with the presentation, and all the support I’ve gotten from friends and family leading up to the presentation and after getting announced as a finalist,” he said. “It is so heartwarming and amazing to have so many people in my corner. I am so fortunate and grateful to be in this position.”

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