Deer Valley bartender wins Park City Cocktail Contest for third time |

Deer Valley bartender wins Park City Cocktail Contest for third time

‘When people like it, it just makes you feel really proud’

Bonnie Ulmer, a bartender at Deer Valley Resorts Royal Street Caf, won the Park City Cocktail Contest for the third time after creating a spicy watermelon ros spritzer. She says she looks forward each year to the contest and puts a lot of effort into coming up with tasty drinks.

Call her the cocktail queen of Park City.

Bonnie Ulmer, a bartender at Deer Valley Resort's Royal Street Café, recently won the Park City Cocktail Contest, held throughout July, for her spicy watermelon rosé spritzer. But here's the thing: It was her third time in 11 years taking home the town's top mixology medal. She also won in 2006 for a blueberry mojito and in 2009 for a St. Germain — both of which patrons can still order from the restaurant.

Handle's Pineapple Express from mixologist Sean Palmer finished second in the competition, which was put on by the Park City Area Restaurant Association and was determined by an online vote.

"It's a really good feeling," said Ulmer, who has been a bartender with Deer Valley since 1981 and earned $200 for winning the contest. "All I wanted was to win three times. Sometimes you come up with a great one, and sometimes it's like, 'Eh.' But this was a big hit and it was really fun this year."

Ulmer's time-tested strategy for drink-mixing dominance is simple. This spring, for instance, she thought about the types of drinks Royal Street Café's summertime clientele like and considered the fresh fruit available in the area. Then, after a lot of trial and error, the spicy watermelon rosé spritzer was born.

"I think it's really fun," she said. "I go around to different restaurants here and there and kind of look at what they have on the menu and talk to the bartenders. Then I sit down and experiment a lot."

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Once the drink was on the menu, it didn't take long for Ulmer to realize she'd created a hit. She said the restaurant served about 350 of them throughout July — in comparison, it sold about 500 of its most popular drink, the blueberry mojito — as the cocktail's reputation spread throughout town via word of mouth.

"When people like it, it just makes you feel really proud," she said.

But while creating a libation that tastes great is important, Ulmer said the presentation is just as critical. The spicy watermelon rosé spritzer has an eye-catching pink color and is served in a martini glass with an ice semi-sphere made from rosé wine, garnished with a strip of jalapeño, emerging from it. The drink has had Royal Street patrons turning their heads since the day it debuted.

"When the ball sits in there, everybody goes, 'Whoa,'" she said. "It's a really unique drink. It's bright and big and it's just like, 'Oh, I want one of those.'"

Ulmer gets the credit for the winning drink — and deservedly so, according to the Royal Street Café's staff — but she said it was far from a solo effort. Everyone from Jodie Rogers, Deer Valley's food and beverage director, to the restaurant's cooks contributed.

"I'm the one that makes it go, but everyone pitches in," she said.

The collaboration is rewarding to Ulmer, as is the fact that Royal Street Café was up against a number of respected restaurants and talented bartenders and still came out on top.

"This year, (the contest) had a lot of great drinks," she said. "And when you're competing with the men and women on Main Street and all over town, it's pretty exciting. I think it's exciting even to get in the top three. It is a big honor."

The spicy watermelon rosé spritzer is expected to be on the menu at the Royal Street Café through Labor Day.


Spicy watermelon rosé spritzer
Recipe from Bonnie Ulmer


1.5 ounces of vodka (Five Wives preferred)
Splash of Rosé wine
2 ounces of spicy watermelon simple syrup, made with jalapeños
Splash of soda
Frozen Rosé wine ice cube

Mix simple syrup and vodka in shaker filled with ice. Strain into glass. Add Rosé wine ice and top with soda. Garnish with jalapeño strip.