Victory was delicious for Julia Nussman of Midland, TX, on Wednesday as she beat five other finalists from around the country to win the first LongHorn Steakhouse Bar Stars Series and a $5,000 prize.
“I’m humbled, blessed and very excited,” said Julia, who practiced and studied hard for the bartending competition. The most difficult part, she said, was staying focused and composed. “I set my sights on what I needed to do, and I did it.”
Izzy Kapel of Schaumburg, IL, won second place, and Chelsey Koch of Orchard Park, NY, took third place.
The six finalists stirred, shook and poured for the top prize at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, KY, the heart of bourbon country and the home of LongHorn’s single barrel bourbon.
LongHorn created the competition, with more than $50,000 in prizes, to test the knowledge of its bartenders and to celebrate the top bartenders in each LongHorn restaurant. After all, every great steak deserves a great drink. Earlier this year the brand launched a new beverage offer rooted in ice-cold beer, bold bourbon and great margaritas, and its bartenders continue to bring it to life.
The competition began in August and featured two rounds — at the restaurant level, where thousands were invited to participate, and regionals — before the finals this week. In every round, bartenders were assessed on drink specs and making the perfect drink. All the top winners won cash prizes.
Three finalists tied for fourth place: Maggie Cooper of Huntersville, NC; Nate Smith of Jacksonville, FL; and Taylor Rose of Brentwood, TN.
Julia, a four-year LongHorn team member who was born and raised in Tucson, AZ, is a relative newcomer to Texas with no family nearby. “I love my team members and guests, and they have become my family,” she said. “I love going to work every day and seeing their happy, smiling faces.” She plans to use part of her prize for a trip to visit her family in Tucson.
She loves bartending because she meets new people, and every one of them has a story to tell her. She also has a secret ingredient. “I love what I do and I love my guests, and that love goes into every drink I make.”