Happy Accidents named Best New U.S. Cocktail Bar - Albuquerque Journal

Happy Accidents named Best New U.S. Cocktail Bar

Happy Accidents owners Kate Gerwin, left, Blaze Montana, center, and head chef Adrienne Miller, right, celebrate being named Best New U.S. Cocktail Bar at the 16th annual Spirited Awards in New Orleans. (Courtesy of Cory Fontenot)

It is no coincidence that Happy Accidents has been named Best New U.S. Cocktail Bar.

Owners Kate Gerwin and Blaze Montana poured their blood, sweat and tears into the build-out of the bar to create something that Albuquerque had never seen before. Gerwin and Montana used their seasoned bartending and bar consulting skills to build a venue that made patrons feel as if they stepped out of the Duke City and walked into a big city bar with its vibrant and distinctive decor as well as a signature cocktail menu made up of unique concoctions for all palates.

Happy Accidents is located at 3225 Central Avenue NE in Nob Hill.

“We built the table, we built the bar, we did the paintings, we did the ceilings, we didn’t really contract anything out,” Gerwin said. “Blaze and I did pretty much everything by hand. We did the floors, we did everything, we did it all.”

Being named a 2022 Spirited Awards nominee in the Best New U.S. Cocktail Bar category was a nice recognition but winning the category was something that did not cross Gerwin’s mind even as Happy Accidents advanced to the top 10 and then the top 4.

“We have a lot of followers in the industry and then we got top 10 in the country and that really surprised me,” Gerwin said. “Because (we are New Mexico), I was like, wow, okay, cool, you know, top 10 in the country, that’s kind of as far as we’ll go. … they take the top 10 in the country and then that gets narrowed down to what they call the shortlist, the top four.”

The top four are then invited to the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation event. The five-day event features different seminars and activities related to the spirit industry. The Spirited Awards are held on the final night.

“We got all dressed up, we all got matching shoes, and we were kind of going to just be there because we thought it was cool that we got invited,” Gerwin said. “… (Head chef) Adrienne (Miller) kept telling me we won and I was like, it’s just not gonna happen. But yeah, they announced our name and we got the award.”

The recognition means the world to Gerwin and the Happy Accidents team.

“The Spirit Awards is kind of a big deal for the bar world, it’s like our Oscars, it’s like our James Beard (Award), and mostly major markets get attention,” Gerwin said. “And the bars we were up against all have PR firms. … I was like, it’s cool, I’m happy we got top four, and chances are it’s just literally not gonna happen. And when they announced our name, Adrienne taps me on the leg. She was like, you gotta get up. And I just kind of looked at her and I was like, why? And she pointed up there and I was like, oh, that’s us. They just called our name.”

The win for Happy Accidents is also a win for New Mexico in Gerwin’s eyes.

“I hope it does more for the industry here in New Mexico and people realizing here in New Mexico we have a cocktail scene and we’re growing and we’re competing on a different level,” Gerwin said. “And that being something different doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad.”

The Spirited Awards were established in 2007 to recognize beverage professionals, brands, media, journalists, and establishments across all areas of the cocktail industry, according to the awards’ website.

“The Spirited Awards celebrates excellence in our industry and this year’s winners embody that standard so well,” Charlotte Voisey, Spirited Awards overall chair, states on the website. “After a difficult few years, it is truly inspiring to gather together once more and see what these recognitions really mean to everyone nominated.”

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