Astoria’s Thirsty Koala crowns its third-round winner in second annual mixology contest

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Photo: Noel Martinez

The Thirsty Koala crowned yet another winner in the third round of The Thirsty Challenge, their second annual mixology contest that attracts bartenders and mixologists from all over New York City, on Nov. 4.

The lively event took place at the local Australian restaurant, The Thirsty Koala, located at 35-12 Ditmars Blvd. Chef and owner Katherine Fuchs told QNS that she’s thrilled the competition has taken off.

“We were talking about how to get the whole neighborhood involved in a competition because we felt like Ditmars was not properly represented at the time,” Fuchs said about creating the competition with fellow bartender and mixologist Matt Stannah.

“[But] then people from other areas were like, ‘What about us? We want to participate too!’ So we brought them in,” she said.

The evening was hosted by the hilarious Jacklynn Hyde, who took her spot right behind the bar with the contestants.

During the competition, four mixologists — John Olivo of Jack Jones, Keith Pust of Watawa, Zahin Sakib of Vintage, and The Thirsty Koala’s very own Fahad Hossain — had 10 minutes to come up with a cocktail using two secret ingredients of Australian origin and whatever else they could find in the bar.

Their secret ingredients were Starward Two-Fold Australian Whisky and the Australian chocolate cookies, Mint Tim Tams.

Once they created their drinks — with some even naming theirs, such as Olivo’s Coffee Cookie Monster — a panel of four judges critiqued them based on taste, presentation, showmanship, effective use of the ingredients and creativity.

The panel of judges was composed of Georgy Zaydenman, a market manager for spirits brand company Redwood Brands, Josiah Dandren of Burke and Wills, former bartender Nicholas LaManna and James Cook of The Crooked Knife.

Photo credit: Noel Martinez

But the night offered more than just an entertaining mixology show.

The upbeat music made for a fun environment, where guests also got to compete in a raffle for their own Starward Two-Fold Australian Whisky, Tim Tams, gift cards and several other prizes.

There was also the Angry Wings competition, a hot wings eating contest in which a guest, Hossain and LaManna had five minutes to eat six chicken wings made with Fuchs’ tasty but spicy Carolina Reaper sauce.

In the end, Hossain didn’t just win the hot wings challenge (by a landslide), but he also won the third round of The Thirsty Challenge and took home the Muddle of Honor. This means he’ll join Antonia Joannides from Queens Room and Filup Groft from Albatross in the championship, which will take place some time in January.

The final round before the championship will be held on Dec. 9 at The Thirsty Koala.

Fuchs, a lifelong resident of Astoria, sees the competition as a great way to introduce guests to the restaurant’s Australian-inspired cuisine.

“We want to convey the Australian experience also, because we use a lot of indigenous Australian ingredients,” Fuchs said. “We used Vegemite in one competition. We’ve used Australian Flake, which is a chocolate candy that’s flaky from Cadburys. It’s amazing stuff.”

For more information about the competition and the restaurant, visit their website at www.thethirstykoala.com.

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