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Meet the Vegas bartender named to top 30 in global competition

Kenny Hwong wants you to Inhale.

The bartender brings the liquidity at Legacy Club, which sits 60 floors up atop Circa in downtown Las Vegas. Recently, Hwong advanced to the national top 30 in the United States Bartenders Guild Presents World Class, a global bartending competition sponsored by Diageo, the multinational beverage behemoth.

To advance to the top 30, bartenders around the world had to fashion signature cocktails using products from the Diageo Bar Academy. Hwong created Inhale, which draws inspiration from a chocolate mint candy he enjoyed at a restaurant while growing up.

The cocktail convenes Ketel One vodka, the pungent black licorice of Pernod, Fernet-Branca’s bitter bite, espresso, honey syrup and a Maldon salt solution for a boozy, herby cooling whoosh.

“To participate in the biggest cocktail competition in cocktail culture and elevated drinking is surreal,” said Hwong, a Vegas native. His top 30 showing this year in the competition improves on his top 100 placing in 2022 and 2023.

In Denver in early June, one bartender will be chosen to represent the U.S. at the World Class global finals this year in Shanghai. Contestants will be judged on cocktail formulation, the proper balance of creativity and speed, the presentation of their serves and the development of a homemade ingredient that enhances the flavor of a Diageo spirit.

At Legacy Club, Hwong also likes to mix up pours of What’s Your Number? The 72-hour clarified coconut milk punch is crafted with green chiles and a spice level of choice. The drink is garnished sustainably with a recycled coconut cream pastry.

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at jwright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JLWTaste on Instagram and @ItsJLW on X.

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