PDT swept up prizes when Don Lee and Daniel Eun placed second and first place, respectively, for the Rhum Clement cocktail challenge. Daniel made a drink called Bitches Brew, using Clement Premiere Canne, fresh lime juice, Pampero Anniversario, St. Elizabeth All-Spice Dram, demerara syrup and an egg. Don's Sargasso is made with Clement V.S.O.P., Lustau East India Sherry, Aperol, dash of angostura bitters and garnished with an orange twist. Lydia Reissmuller of Elettaria got third place with her Sweetie Pie, a drink made with Clement V.S.O.P., St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, fresh pressed apple juice, angostura bitters, a pinch of salt and garnished with salt-tipped apple slice.
Daniel wasn't there to accept his prize, an all expense paid trip to Martinique, because he had to go back to work. "He's not here?" Jim Meehan asked almost incredulous as he made his way up to receive the prize on Daniel's behalf.
"Yea, he went back to work," Don answered.
"What? I can't believe he's not here." Jim said.
"Wait, aren't you his boss?" someone asked Jim as the room broke out laughing.
And those were just three drinks out of all the drinks mixed by 18 (some submitted two recipes, while others just one) mixologists/bartenders for the evening. The Astor Center was packed to the gills with bartender that I knew and new ones for me to meet.
I drafted my friend Marc Almendarez to come take photos for me. We've done the "Wonder Twin Powers, activate!" thing before for concerts (Marc: "In the form of a pretty decent photographer!" Me: "In the form of a wannabe concert writer who goes to shows and writes about them for fun every now and then, but hasn't had anything professionally published in that realm!"), so I knew I could trust him to snap some nice photos so I could concentrate on the note taking and writing. It also doesn't hurt that he takes way better pictures than I do, has a nicer camera than I do, and is willing to work for food and drink. Actually, now that I look a bit more closely at the pictures, some of them look like...
...Clement Cocktail Challenge edition baseball cards!! Collect them all!
Besides the bartenders participating in the challenging, the judges of the competition included Jim Meehan, Julie Reiner, Tony Abou-Ganim, Jerry Banks and last year's winner, Tad Carducci. There were plenty of familiar faces weaving in and out of the crowd as well.
I spotted Willy Shine and said hi to Aisha Sharpe and Leo DeGroff. At first I thought they were all in attendance, but then Leo told me that the Bar Alcohol Resource was holding classes just next door (quite literally next door, since the classes are being held in the same building), so some people were popping in from there to check things out.
Later when I ran into Kenta Goto from Pegu Club, who I hadn't seen in a while, he said that he too had just come from next door.
Contestants showed a wide range of variety in flavor as well as cocktail styling. Some showed off their bar chef techniques through housemade ingredients. For example, Damon from Death and Co. created a kumquat syrup for his Doctor D's Beach Planter (Rhum Clement X.O., demerara syrup, fresh lime juice, kumquat syrup, herbsaint, Angostura bitters). Kumquat peels were macerated in high-proof demerara rum, and some kumquats were pressed and the juice added to simple syrup. The two were then combined and strained to create the syrup.
Fresh fruit made its appearance in a variety of ways in several cocktails. Abel (Dylan Prime) served the Martinique Passion that had muddled fresh strawberries and white peppercorn as the base. Jacquelyn Leon's (Martinique Cafe) Cava Fresca had muddled Bartlett Pear (and was garnished with a pear petal. The Blackberry Smash by Brain Matthys from Izakaya Ten had the flavor combination of muddled fresh blackberries and shiso leaf. Ethan Kelly from Brandy Library created a surprisingly not so sweet banana cocktail that muddled bananas. Elba Giron from Bar Milano made what seemed to be a rum version of a Bellini using not only Clement's Premiere Canne, but the Creole Shrubb as well to combine with the white peach puree, prosecco and a bit of lime juice.
While some played with fruit, Don Lee created a streamlined, spirits-based cocktail. He explained that he wanted to create something a little different and also used sherry to make the cocktail a bit lighter for the summer.
Something entirely different was Maria Polise's (Sansom Street Oyster House, Philadelphia) Hot Seersucker Fizz. The combination of heavy cream as well as egg white gave a really luxurious mouthfeel to the drink that contrasted sharply with the tart and throat-tingling flavors of Clement Premiere Canne, Creole Shrubb, fresh squeezed lemon juice, fresh jalapenos and a garnish of cinnamon-heavy aromatic bitters.
(You can view more photos from the event by clicking here. Though I just realized I need to help Marc label these photos.)