Bartenders attending the Grand Marnier and Navan Mixology Summit were picked based on numbers based grading system that wasn't totally explained to me in detail. But one thing was for certain, they wanted as many different recipes as possible using their products.
The bartenders submitted four recipes each and demonstrated two out of the four. From flipping through "The Big Book o' Cocktails," as I have dubbed it, and sitting in on a few of the labs to watch the bartenders do their stuff, it was fun to see how many different ways different bartenders managed to bring their preferences and styles to two ingredients.
As JC had told me the day before, the idea was to find ingredients that used "creativity and something unexpected" as I watched Sean Bigley (Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas), put his twist on a Negroni with the Grand Milano.
Grand Marnier, Campari, Fee Brothers Grapefruit bitters, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and Plymouth Gin were shaken and poured into a cocktail glass, and garnished with an orange spiral.
Today Erik Hackinen from Seattle's Zig Zag Cafe made a La Roquette and La Nouvelle Vague. Erik described Zig Zag's cocktail menu as one that featured a lot of rye and whisky and the La Roquette channeled a bit of that by taking Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof and stirring it with Grand Marnier, Peychaud Bitters, Regan's Orange bitters, Torani Amer and absinthe in a mixing glass. The drink was then strained, and garnished with a lemon twist.
Steven Kowalczuk, cocktail chef for Room at Twelve Centennial Park in Atlanta, Ga., enjoys using fresh vegetable as well as fruit juices in his cocktails. He created a Navan Carrot Cake using fresh carrot juice, Navan, cinnamon schnapps, Grand Marnier and ground cinnamon. Heavy whipping cream and sugar are shaken before hand to make thick. Then the liquid ingredients are shaken and poured into a martini glass. Cream is poured on top, and garnished with a bit of cinnamon. In today's case, a bit of graded carrot was used.
Some bartenders showed adaptability when they had a curve ball thrown at them. Ronaldo Colli (Americano Restaurant, San Francisco) didn't have fresh raspberries or creme fraiche on hand for his Sweet Tart demonstration. He went ahead and made it with strawberries and heavy whipping cream. After muddling the strawberries, lemon juice, agave nectar and a splash of water are added and shaken. The liquid is then strained into a tall glass filled with ice. Grand Marnier and heavy whipping cream were mixed in another glass, then poured into the cocktail.
When asked about using agave nectar, Ronaldo said it was something naturally sweet with the consistency of honey. Tad Carducci, part of the staff for the summit and consultant with Tippling Bros., chimed in that the nectar is a low glycemic index food that makes it a less processed, healthy addition to drinks.
Tad commented that he was seeing a lot of bartenders starting to use organic and or all-natural ingredients in cocktails. Whether it was by using certified organic spirits or ingredients, green or simply less-processed. He said, "It's shifting towards the attitude of wanting to put better things in our bodies."