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Posted on Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 5:56 a.m.

Award-winning bartender brings his mixology skills to downtown Ann Arbor

By Chelsea Hoedl

Ann Arbor residents now have the opportunity to try cocktails made by David Martinez, the winner of best garnish in the 2013 Shake it Up Cocktail Competition.

Martinez has attended the Nightclub and Bar Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas every year as a manager at The Torch Bar and Grill in downtown Flint, where he worked until coming to work at the Alley Bar in Ann Arbor in early May.

It wasn’t until this year that he decided to submit an original cocktail recipe for competition.

More than 800 people from all over the country submitted drinks for the contest. Martinez was one of the 30 selected to compete live at the convention.

“I was so surprised,” Martinez said. “My initial reaction was excitement and then I was nervous. I emailed the company holding the competition constantly asking questions. It was my first cocktail competition and I didn’t know what to expect.”

Contestants were given 15 minutes to prep and then 7 minutes to complete the drink on stage. Although Martinez did not win for his cocktail recipe, he did win for best garnish — a candied orange peel rose resting on a bed of fresh mint sprigs, which took around 8 hours to produce.

“The competition is a lot of fun, but it’s nerve racking at the same time,” Martinez said. “I’m definitely going to submit a drink again next year. It would be cool if I could get in to the competition again.”

The award-winning bartender left his position as manager in Flint to work in Ann Arbor.

“I came to Ann Arbor because I heard there was a better cocktail scene,” Martinez said. “It’s a faster pace with a lot more people coming in. I had strayed away from interacting with the people and being able to make the drinks when I was managing at The Torch. A big part of why I left was to get back to bartending.”

Alley Bar owner Robbie Shulz said the award was impressive, but not the main factor in hiring Martinez.

“We hired David because of his excitement to learn more about the industry,” Shulz said. “His energy is just amazing and contagious. That’s what we always look for when we’re hiring new workers. He’s been doing great here. He has a lot to learn still, but he has a lot to share too. For that reason he’s been a great addition to the staff.”

Martinez will be moving to The Last Word, also owened by Shulz, within the next few weeks.

“We’re changing our hours at The Last Word and opening a little earlier now,” Shulz said. “We were looking for someone we felt comfortable with running a new program and I think in the long term it will be a good fit for him. We will be able to see the creative side in him because he will have access to a kitchen at The Last Word. He’ll be able to help us drive the program forward and he’ll have more room to grow.”

The Last Word will be launching ‘Green Hour’ from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, featuring traditional absinthe drips and cocktails.

“I’m excited to make the move,” Martinez said. “I like Alley Bar because it was an easy transition for me. It reminded me of The Torch with its comfortable, casual atmosphere, but a place like The Last Word is where I have always wanted to end up.”

Martinez describes The Last Word as a dark, speakeasy-style bar with a more formal feel.

“It’s what I have pictured in my head since I started bartending,” Martinez said. “Everything is handmade and crazy fresh. This is a step in the right direction for me.”

The cocktail Martinez submitted for competition is still being served at The Torch. It’s a mix of Jameson, Patron XO Cafe, orange peel-infused simple syrup and Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters.

You can test out Martinez’s skills at the Alley Bar or The Last Word, where he will be working in a few weeks.

Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for She can be reached at


David Bardallis

Sat, Jul 20, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

Don't listen to the naysayers. I, for one, look forward to being able to get a proper absinthe!


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

Good to see someone enjoying what they do and putting in the work to do so well. A lot of prep goes into quality, if you prefer a drive through and store bought margarita mix that's fine, but understand that you have no place commenting on quality of any kind. Congrats man, gonna have to come see what you do with the new cocktail list!

Josh Thiele

Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

Haters gunna hate. Can't wait to see what David can add to my favorite bar!


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 7:51 a.m.

Yay Luke!

Kyle Mattson

Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 7:45 p.m.

While I understand the "slow news day" perspective, we are a small town news site that covers topics of all sizes, including the occasional feature story on local individuals. We all have our areas of interest be it a sport, hobby, niche craft, etc and when someone makes a notable achievement in that area we do feature them from time to time. While 8 hours to create a garnish may seem incredibly long to some, I have to give David a tip of the hat for it as there is no way I have the patience to spend even one hour on an intricate creation like that.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

Thanks for avoiding the obvious "slow work day" comeback for the nay sayers... Whatever category you put this in, it's a feat and at least a welcome is in order. It's good to see staff responses on this website. All to often folks post and forget. Thanks for that Kyle.


Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

How about some addresses to go with this PR piece? Or is confounding the public part of keeping it 'news'? What is The Last Word? Is that the former Gracie's beneath Live?


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 5:51 a.m.

yes, & it is as hipster as it gets.


Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 5:24 p.m.

Nothing against Mr Martinez, But it would not take much effort to find a more news worthy subject.


Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

Gosh so negative. Welcome to town man and best of luck. Let me know when I can buy you a beer.

David Martinez

Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 2:13 a.m.

Thank You Luke. I may take you up on that offer.


Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 3:37 p.m.

Well this explains why my last drink order took 8 hours and 22 minutes to get to me.


Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Congrats on winning but,a award for a garnish?and it takes 8 hours to make?Lets get real people


Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 3 p.m.

The drink doesn't even sound good.


Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

Stop it with the cocktail (TC) seen that movie


Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

Must be a slow news day.


Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 11:01 a.m.

"Winner of best garnish?" Man, you guys will hype anything. See how great his garnishes look when drunks are three deep around the bar, the band is pumping and a full dining room. I've seen very few bartenders that could have lasted 15 minutes at Mountain Jacks in the early 80's.