I had the honour of judging the Maker’s Mark bourbon cocktail competition yesterday at Boneta with Joanne Sasvari of the Vancouver Sun, Angie Belise of Beam Global Canada, and Kentucky’s own Bill Samuels Jr. (the esteemed president of Maker’s Mark).
While I’m not particularly fond of drinking at 1:oopm, especially spirits that clock in at 45% alcohol, I hadn’t had any Maker’s Mark for two months (not since my trip to Kentucky) and I was keen to get my tongue around some again. Also, when someone asks if you want to try 14 different cocktails from 14 of the city’s better bartenders, you’re a bit of an asshat if you say no.
The competitors were…
Danielle Tatarin of DB Bistro
Keenan Hood of George
Lauren Mote of The Refinery
Simon Kaulback of Boneta
Trevor Kallies of The Granville Room
Kyle Lane of DB Bistro
Kate McDonald of the TCC
Bobbi K of Boneta
JT of Market in the Shangri-La
Jon Smolensky of Brix
Charlie Ainsbury of The Diamond
Heather Perkins of the Irish Heather
Jason Kelly of Cobre
Shaun Layton of George
And here they are at work…
The barkeeps worked in pairs and were allotted eight minutes each to prep and pour their cocktails. There were a lot of twists on the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned, plus some ingenious inventions.
One fellow, Kyle Lane from DB Bistro, made a drink with double-smoked bacon fat infused bourbon (nuanced by Amaro Montenegro and sweet vermouth) under a thick foam of English pea. Another, Jon Smolensky of Brix, constructed a mealish cocktail in a Collins glass with cardamom, tuaca, vanilla, Fee’s Old Fashioned bitters, and over an ounce of organic carrot juice (garnished with a whole carrot, leaves and all). “I’m more of a wine guy,” he apologised. No need. I thought it was a marvelous departure.
My favourite drink of the day came from Heather Perkins of The Irish Heather (ex-Rangoli and before that, a life in San Francisco). Her super simple “Tallulah’s Mark” saw Maker’s paired up with Gentaine aperitif and whiskey barrel aged bitters. The kicker was the ice, which she’d made herself with wonderfully floral spices. Just smelling the empty glass was intoxicating…
Other libations I’d cradle again would include the “Loretto Process” from George’s head booze arbiter, Shaun Layton, a brilliantly conceived and well balanced interpretation of the bourbon-making process that included toasted oak vapour and a syrup made from lager, and “Showdown at Star Hill”, a Gunpowder tea-enhanced glass of sweet genius from Trevor Kailles of The Granville Room.
The final results were very close. We were tasked with awarding a maximum of 20 points each for Balance, Creativity, Presentation, and the Showcasing of Maker’s Mark, making for a possible total of 80 points. In third place with 72.5 points was JT of Market with his watermelon and rhubarb driven “Marksman’s Target”. With 74 points in second place, pouring his Loretto Process, was Shaun Layton of George.
The winner was Lauren Mote of The Refinery with her 74.5 point Charred Bourbon Sour, a drink that came complete with its on molecular deconstruction on the side (bourbon meringue, bitters and bourbon gelee, charred oak brittle, etc). While not particularly a fan of side dishes with my drinks, there was no denying the achievement in the glass here. Her cocktail, a summery thing that I’d have again and again, was deliciously without fault. Here it is, should you want to make it at home…
Shake all ingredients together until frothy – double strain into a single old fashioned glass.