Brix Nightclub bartender Steven Sheehanwon the Palm Springs Summer Splash Cocktail Challenge with his “Pom Springs Fling." // Photo by Justin Albert
For Steven Sheehan, the San Jose bartender who won the Palm Springs Summer Splash Cocktail Challenge, bartending is really just a side job. He’s teaches English as a second language and is currently a University of San Francisco student studying organizational behavior and leadership.
Bartending, which he’s been doing for the last 12 years is just a way to get him through school, but at the end of May, he found himself representing San Jose and Brix Nightclub with his own creation at the Palm Springs Summer Splash Cocktail Challenge.
His cocktail, the “Pom Springs Fling”—made of Stoli white pomegranate, pomegranate Schnapps, soda water and 7UP, simple syrup, muddled cucumber, mint and a squeeze of lime—beat out bartenders from 12 cities, including New York and Las Vegas.
“It’s a very refreshing, light drink,” Sheehan explains. “When I made it, I thought, what would celebrities drink down by the pool in Palm Springs?”
The criteria for judging in Palm Springs included the cocktail, the presentation and the performance; Sheehan’s was a 1950s Elvis number.
“I wore my leather jacket, my ’50s glasses, my pompadour—I channeled Elvis for a bit,” he says. “I was a little bit nervous. I’m not a big performer.”
Sheehan has been at Brix for three of the five years the club has been open, and he said most of the time he thinks up his drinks off the top of his head.
“Customers always ask us make something new,” he says. “They always want us to make something up.” Just the
other night, he said, a bachelorette party group asked for a drink, and he made a lemon-meringue wedding-cake cocktail on the fly.
For his winning cocktail, though, he spent some time working on it and tested it on other people.
Winning in Palm Springs didn’t come with a cash prize but with bragging rights.
“It’s validation after 12 years of bartending,” Sheehan says. “It’s good to know that I know what flavors go good together.”
Another bonus for Sheehan was winning the competition on behalf of San Jose. “I had to represent San Jose—put us on the map.”
Originally from Costa Rica, Sheehan moved around a lot––high school in South Korea, middle school in Guam––before landing in San Jose. This moving, he said, has made him want to experience different cultures. When he graduates in December, he hopes to get into international human resources work for Silicon Valley companies like Apple or Google.
“I’m a mover. It’s really hard for me to stay in one place,” he says.
Read more about Silicon Valley Bars & Clubs in the June 13 special issue.