On August 4, the United States Bartenders’ Guild hosted the regional finals of the Most Imaginative Bartender competition. The event was sponsored by Bombay Sapphire and GQ magazine. Tacy Rowland of Bol in Vail earned herself a spot at the national finals in Las Vegas with her Gemaicha cocktail: a concoction of gin, green tea, and a variety of exotic botanicals. With the Vegas competition coming up next week (September 8 to 11), 5280 chatted with Rowland about what inspired her show-stopping drink, how she’s preparing for the final contest, and her favorite cocktails to mix.

5280: What inspired your winning Gemaicha cocktail?

Tacy Rowland: I just wanted to focus on the tradition [of the gin] as well as bring in the exotic botanicals of it. I went on a trip in my mind around the world.

5280: How are you preparing for the final competition?

TR: I’m practicing my cocktails quite a bit for the technical portion and I’m really making sure I’m familiar with all of my movements. I’ve brought in a lot of products and techniques…like carbonating cocktails, using gelatins and foams—different things of that nature.

5280: How do you approach the creative construction of a new cocktail?

TR: I think there are some basic formulas that apply to bartending. If you look at things like a Collins or a Negroni—the proportions of those drinks and what makes up each part—it makes it a little bit easier to break down the different components and figure out where to input a new flavor while maintaining balance in the cocktail.

5280: What is your favorite drink to make?

TR: I’m personally a fan of a classic gin martini and I like to add a couple splashes of orange bitters into mine and let the beauty of the gin shine through. [But] my favorite drink to make is the one that the person in front of me wants to drink. It’s really about understanding what everyone is looking for.

5280: Do you have any upcoming plans for the bar program at Bol?

TR: We’re going to be changing it around seasonally. We get a lot of people coming up asking for gin and tonics, but they don’t necessarily take the time to look at the variety we have. We’ve put together a series of gin and tonics on the menu paired with different botanicals or different citruses.