Since I was deep in the thick of competition and couldn’t take notes, I enlisted the services of Portland, Oregon food writer Ms. Lizzy Caston. Following is her report.
What does a group of creative bartenders do with bags full of promotional alcohol samples, mixers and condiments? Hold a contest to determine who can make the best drink using nothing but the swag handed out at Tales of the Cocktail.
Welcome to Swag Off ’08.
In true rogue spirit, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Daniel Shoemaker from the Teardrop Lounge in Portland, Oregon and Eric Adkins from the Slanted Door in San Francisco met Friday night on the roof the Monteleone Hotel by moonlight, in what is sure to become a legendary annual event.
The rules were simple. Gather together a group of three judges; in this case Keith Waldbauer, bartender at Union in Seattle and author of Moving at the Speed of Life, Lauren Clark from Drink Boston and Misty from LUPEC http://lupecboston.blogspot.com/. The lovely and vivacious Liquid Muse, Natalie Bovis-Nelson agreed to MC.
Ingredients included a hodge-podge of liquors not limited to airplane sized bottles of Bluecoat Dry Gin, G’Vine French Grape Gin, Pearl Vodka, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, Veev Acai Spirit, Poli Grappa and the most prominent swag at Tales this year: Canton French Ginger Liquor.
In lesser hands these drinks could have been small disasters, yet each contestant showed skill, inventiveness and their own personal touches. Jeff’s strategy was to, “take one of everything on the table and mix it together” in a technique reminiscent of a savant teenage mixologist at a house party. Eric on the other hand, took the molecular cocktail approach by smoking an inverted drinking glass over a Navan liqueur vanilla-scented aromatherapy candle. Daniel simply grabbed a few different ingredients and like a mad scientist on speed mixed and tasted and mixed some more.
All drinks were served up, and Eric’s had a whopping 2 oz of gin, a full oz of Veev, an undisclosed amount of grappa and the above mentioned “smoke of the vanilla candle”. Daniel chose chili powder, 7 whole dashes of Angostura bitters, agave nectar, 1.5 oz gin, ¾ oz grappa and ½ oz of Campari for his “Seat of the Pants” cocktail. Jeff could not resist muddling the Sour Green Apple Cocktail Candy http://www.cocktailcandy.com/ccandy/ccandy.html for his “Green Mile”, adding it along with 4 dashes of Campari, dashes of Angostura, with some of the gin, St. Germaine, Bitter Lemon and a float of Lemoncello.
While the judges reactions were mixed, no one “spat” which is surely a good sign. Feedback was generally positive with all judges agreeing that each certainly had the Spirit of the Cocktail in them. Yet a clear winner did emerge; Daniel Shoemaker’s Seat of the Pants. Look for it at a Bennigan’s or TGIF Fridays soon.
So congratulations Daniel. And remember, we are all winners at Tales of the Cocktail.
Thanks, Lizzie! Be sure to watch the video coverage of the event at the Small Screen Network.