The About.com Cocktail Contests have become a regular feature on the site and 2013 was a great year with many fabulous cocktails to highlight. These original recipes come from readers and include professional bartenders and enthusiasts who each have a passion for creating new drinks.
Below is an archive of the results from the twelve contests held in 2013, each with a different theme that range from brandy and rum to fruit and drinks that are perfect for the holidays. My full commentary and links to the best recipes are included and there are many great drinks for you to explore.
New Year's: The Clean Slate
Published: December 25, 2013
December’s quick New Year’s cocktail contest turned out to be one of my favorites of the year and today’s the day to announce the winner. The Clean Slate is the ideal cocktail for ringing in the new year and it comes to us from Las Vegas bartender and United States Bartenders Guild member, Cody Fredrickson.
This is a Champagne cocktail, but Fredrickson has created a layer of flavors in a finely balanced mix that makes it something very special. It uses the newest Ciroc Amaretto Vodka, a new release for 2013 so it is a fitting way to say goodbye to the year. Added to that fantastic vodka are St. Germain, Cherry Heering, an apple-cinnamon syrup, and a rim of sugar and gold flake for a little sparkle.
The other finalists in this contest deserve some attention as well. One is another sparkling drink for party time and the other is a very interesting hair of the dog recipe…
French 1080p – An elegant drink from Jake Davenport, this one mixes creme de violette and absinthe with hibiscus syrup, ginger syrup, and rose water before topping it off with Prosecco. Fabulously floral.
- Winter Roadside Rescue – You will have to be adventurous to take on this spicy morning after martini. It has a gin and olive juice base, but gets interesting when you begin adding horseradish, black pepper, and Sriracha. Like I said, it’s an adventure and if it doesn’t cure your hangover, it will at least help you forget it for a minute.
The Holidays: JMW's Poinsettia Punch
Published: December 16, 2013
The winning recipe for the Holiday Cocktail Contest is a new take on an old favorite. It comes from Jason Westplate and is appropriately named JMW’s Poinsettia Punch.
What I fancy about Westplate’s rendition is that while he kept a few of the traditional ingredients, he brought the entire drink into a new light with modern twists. Instead of opting for a London dry, he specifically uses the more subtle Hendrick’s for the gin. He left in the allspice dram, though he adds vanilla to the cinnamon syrup, and he also adds the sweet taste of Chambord, which is a really nice touch. To finish the cocktail off with perfection, Westplate went with a trifecta of bitters: Bittercube’s Cherry Bark Vanilla, Scrappy’s Cardamom, and the always useful Angostura. It is a spectacular and refreshing take on the red punch and will make an excellent addition to any holiday party.
When it came to the list of finalists on this contest, I could not narrow the list to three, but opted to include a fourth because each of them embodies the spirit of the holiday season in their own ways. Here are the other three finalists…
New England Negroni – Mark shared this rendition of the classic cocktail which skips the gin and opts for a mix of aged rum and bourbon to pair with the Campari and sweet vermouth. He’s right, the salt is necessary.
- Winter Scarf – How could I pass up a hot cocoa recipe like this one from Brenda Coons? In it she mixes coconut spiced rum, marshmallow vodka, and creme de cacao with steaming hot chocolate.
Pear: Peary Bird
Published: November 18, 2013
The honor of the winning cocktail in last month’s Pear Cocktail Contest goes to a wonderful autumn cocktail called the Peary Bird, created by the anonymous reader dr_kmkz.
The Peary Bird is a fantastic mix of flavors and I can see it being a compliment to many dinners as we get into the holiday season. It uses a French grape vodka, Swan’s Neck, with Tuaca and B&B liqueurs, a little fresh pear, syrup, and nutmeg for a touch of spice. It is a well-balanced, finely crafted cocktail and one that I think you will enjoy as much as I did.
Now, it is time for the other two very fine drinks that made it into the finals…
Ginger Pear Mojito – Summer is the season that this cocktail evokes. Angelique Heddings’ mix is one of vodka, Midori, ginger syrup, fresh pear and basil, and ginger ale. It is refreshingly fun.
- Pearadise – Lithuanian bartender, Laura Volkaite, created this outstanding drink that has received notoriety at her home bar. It is a mix of vodka, pear liqueur, pineapple, coconut, lemon, and fresh mint and pear.
Apple: Candy Appley
Published: October 22, 2013
It is official, we have a winner in last month’s apple contest winner and it is a fun one! The congratulations on this one go out to Sam Hernandez for his cocktail called the Candy Appley.
Take a little moonshine, some fruits, add a little sparkle, and serve it up in a coconut-induced glass and you have this great drink. The moonshine is not just any old moonshine, however, it is XXX Salted Caramel Corn Whiskey and Hernandez has paired it with Berentzen Apple Liqueur and a touch of cranberry juice. The drink is finished off with sparkling cider and a coconut rim. The result of all of this is an apple cocktail with many layers and one that you will want to sip all night long.
Worthy of honorable mention and a little attention of their own are the other two finalists:
Apple Gnac Attack – What a great name for a cocktail! This one from Mari Howe and Michael Soo includes Cognac, pear liqueur, apple and lemon juices, and ginger. It is a perfect cocktail for fall.
Golden Delicious Cocktail – Blair Frodelius of Good Spirits News has another impressive drink. It begins with calvados and apple juice with cinnamon liqueur, but when he starts this typical mix off with a little mint muddling, things get really interesting.
Lemonade: Borrachon Cocktail
Published: September 23, 2013
Today’s the big day when I get to announce the winner of last month’s Lemonade Cocktail Contest and the spices in this drink make it ideal to take right into the new autumn season. The drink is called the Borrachon Cocktail (Spanish for drunk) and its creator is Denzel Heath.
The Borrachon Cocktail mixes a great Texas bourbon with ginger liqueur, balsamic syrup, rosemary, and Heath’s housemade Rio Bravo Lemonade. The lemonade itself is mad of freshly squeezed lemon, roibos tea, pomegranate, and cinnamon and is fantastic on its own. There is a lot going on in this drink, but when all is mixed up it is a phenomenal experience. The whiskey and ginger play nicely off the lemonade and the mix Heath has given us is perfectly balanced.
Also taking honors in this contest are the other two finalists…
- Meagan Maloney’s New Orleans inspired Lemonade is a fascinating blend of Bacardi White and Cruzan Mango rums mixed with American Honey Bourbon, a peppercorn syrup, and mango puree. It is the grilled lemon lemonade that makes this a wonder of a drink.
- Next up is Shane Smith’s Cucumber Pomeade. This one mixes your favorite lemonade with cucumber-infused vodka, Cointreau, and pomegranate. It is simple and quite inspiring.
Frozen: Sriracha Mexican Rodeo
Published: August 19, 2013
Today is the day to announce the winning recipe from July’s Frozen Cocktail Contest and she’s a spicy little drink that I think you’ll enjoy. It is the Sriracha Mexican Rodeo from James Hollmer.
A funny thing happened here which I didn’t realize until Hollmer wrote me, both he and the winner of the last contest, Ryan Salo (Fresa Caliente cocktail, see below), work at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas. There are some great things happening there and one can tell there’s a mutual influence as both drinks pair spicy peppers with cucumbers. I think it’s a place we may want to add to our stop-for-a-drink radar next time we’re in Texas.
Back to the cocktail at hand… The Sriracha Mexican Rodeo requires a bit of prep, but both the jalapeno-cucumber juice and Sriracha salt can be used on multiple drinks, making this a perfect party recipe. That is exactly the purpose Hollmer uses it for, as he often serves it at corporate events for the hotel and because of this, the spiciness from the pepper is universal and rather tame. The rest of the cocktail is very Margarita-eque, just reposado tequila, Cointreau, and housemade sour mix, but the way that this combination works with the freshness of the pepper-cucumber is amazing and refreshing, exactly what we want in a frozen drink.
I will also assume that I caught your attention with Sriracha salt earlier. Consider this essential to the cocktail – it is in the name, after all – because it is the finishing touch that makes the drink exciting. The method for infusing kosher salt with the spice of Sriracha sauce is also included in the recipe and I think you will find this a fun addition to the rim of other drinks as well.
Next up are the other two finalists in this contest, one a spiked milkshake and the other a fascinating tiki treat. Another odd thing happened with these, they are both from Rafa Garcia Febles from DrunkLab. Before anyone complains, let me say that when I’m choosing finalists I am blind to the submitter, judging the drinks solely by their own merit. It just so happens that Febles is rather good at mixing up frozen drinks and shared a few in this contest. Thank you Rafa!
- These creative concoctions begin with the Milkshake ‘n Honey which mixes sherry, apple brandy, Scotch, ginger syrup, lemon, two bitters, and honey ice cream. It is as delicious as it sounds and I have to laugh at Febles’ recommendation on that ice cream: “If honey ice cream cannot be found, 1) consider moving to somewhere where it can be…”
- If you thought that one was interesting, try the Yacht Rock’s ingredient list. It consists of pisco, Galliano, Campari, orange juice, coconut milk, orange blossom water, vanilla, and orange cream citrate. Does it work? Yes it does and it creates a sort of sophisticated orange creamsicle.
Strawberry: Fresa Caliente
Published: July 19, 2013
Sweet, spicy, and sparkling, that is what the winning cocktail from June’s strawberry cocktail contest brings us. The drink is the Fresa Caliente and it was created by Ryan Salo for the Rattlesnake Bar in Dallas.
The cocktail begins a day ahead of time with a special infusion of Arbol chile and strawberries in a premium vodka of your choice. It is a fascinating infusion that I am currently enamored with and will probably keep in stock on a regular basis. Once the sweet and spicy infusion is finished, the cocktail is constructed by muddling more fresh strawberries with cucumber and simple syrup, adding the vodka, then shaking away. In the glass, the cocktail is further enhanced with sparkling Rosé, which is the perfect finishing touch, transforming it into an elegant and crisp cocktail.
Now, on to two more impressive drinks that made it to the final tasting, both of which mix strawberries with perfectly complimentary herbal syrups.
- First up is the Lovely ‘Rita, submitted by Mara Burney and Ashley Covelli of DomesticMixologist.com. This blended Margarita is very lovely as a simple, well-balanced variation that brings in one of my favorite modifiers, rosemary syrup.
- Next up is Brian Beecroft’s Strawberry Basil Martini. Using a Thai basil simple syrup, fresh strawberries, lime, and mixing it with Gekkeikan Sake, it is divine and expertly balanced.
Rum: Pear Naked Sailor
Published: June 26, 2013
A great tasting cocktail with an equally great name, that is what we have for the winner of the rum cocktail contest. The cocktail is the Pear Naked Sailor and it’s creator is Jonny Cimone who manages the bar program at Farmer Brown in San Francisco.
Inspired by a pear and pork belly salad, Cimone created the Pear Naked Sailor to adorn Farmer Brown’s seasonal cocktail menu. It is made of spiced rum, pear puree, ginger nectar, lime juice, bitters, and a float of ginger ale. It tastes as good as it sounds and the flavor combination how perfectly pear and ginger work together. It is sweet, spicy, and refreshing. One thing we did note is that it can be a little too sweet, especially if using a canned ginger nectar with one of the sweeter ginger ales. However, I found that Cimone’s method for making ginger nectar from scratch (included in the recipe – and it’s easy) with Fever-Tree’s Ginger Ale was a nice balance.
As always, I have to mention the other two recipes that went on to the finals and if you like rum, you will certainly want to check these out, both are from regular contributors here and these guys also know their drinks.
First up is Stew Ellington’s Grand Funk Railroad. It is a funky, aromatic cocktail made of Smith & Cross Rum, Cognac, Bonal, Mathild Peche, and bitters.
Then, there is Blair Frodelius’ Cook’s Redemption, which is a tiki cocktail filled with flavor and includes both an aged and vanilla rum, orange and lime, cinnamon, and both black walnut and barrel-aged bitters.
Mint: Raspberry Mojito
Published: May 29, 2013
When I think of mint drinks, the first word that comes to mind is refreshing and many of the recipes submitted in April’s Mint Cocktail Contest are exactly that. It was a fun sampling of cocktails and all three of the finalists deserve the top honor, but Amy Stafford’s Raspberry Mojito won out in the final decision.
There are a number of things that I like about Stafford’s version of this drink, which I’ve had previously in other forms. The drink is made up of rum, lime, mint, raspberries, Chambord, and ginger ale and it is those last two ingredients that really added the sparkle to the drink. The Chambord is both the sweetener and the background for the fresh, muddled berries and the soft ginger is that perfect missing profile that brings it all together.
The other thing that I love about her Raspberry Mojito is that it is accessible. All of the ingredients are readily available and it is likely that they are already in your bar. Mixing it up is easy and that is one aspect I tend to look for in a summer drink when there are so many other things to do.
Be sure to check out her blog A Healthy Life For Me. It is filled with fantastic fresh food and drink recipes.
Now let’s pay a little tribute to the other two drinks that caught my fancy in the mint contest…
Awww Snap – This one begins with sugar snap pea-infused gin and it is a lot of fun! To that, Joe Robinson adds fresh lemon and mint, and simple syrup. Rounding off the mix are Cocchi Americano and celery bitters. It is a herbaceous and fresh cocktail that would make a great aperitif for summer dinner parties.
Cucumber Southside – Another ingredient that screams refreshing is cucumber and this cocktail pairs it quite nicely with mint, gin and sake, lemon juice, and simple syrup. It is filled with light flavors and is perfect for a garden party. Simply lovely.
Chocolate: Plantation Fever
Published: April 22, 2013
I have to say that the submissions for March’s cocktail contest had the panel stumped. Every recipe that was submitted was great, showing off the full spectrum possible when it comes to chocolate cocktails, and it took a good deal of time to narrow it down to just one that we liked above all the others. It was, by far, the most difficult decision to date and I want to thank everyone who participated.
Alas, there could be only one winner (those are my rules after all) and that honor goes to U.K. bartender Joseph Cassidy for his cocktail called Plantation Fever. This self-described ‘budding bartender’ has showed great skill and a promising future with this drink that is a lovely mix of sweet, spice, and citrus and you can keep up with his creations on his blog, The Physic Den.
In the Plantation Fever, Cassidy has introduced us to Mozart Dry Chocolate Spirit, mixed that with Flor de Caña 4yr Gold Rum, lime, and his recipe for a spice chipotle syrup. The lime and spice play perfectly off each other and are another fine example of how citrus and spice are natural companions.
Thank you, Joseph, for sharing this great drink with us and congratulations!
Like I said, this was a tough one to judge and Chris Milligan, Lance Mayhew, and I had our hands full with the finalists. In fact, I had to go with four instead of three finalists to send to the guys to help me out. Here are the other three that went into the finals, and they are all great in their own ways.
El Conde Cocktail – Here we have a mix of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, sweet vermouth, Galliano, and Cacao Prieto. It is a stylish, very satisfying, subtly chocolate cocktail.
Liquid Mounds Bar Martini – When you think of chocolate cocktails, this is probably the style of drink that comes to mind. A mix of chocolate and coconut vodkas mixed with a chocolate and raspberry liquor, it is sweet and a lot of fun to drink.
- Queensland Manhattan – Infusion enthusiasts will have a great time with this cocktail as each of the four main ingredients is enhanced with flavor. It includes macademia-bourbon, cocoa-sweet vermouth, ginger-dry vermouth, and dark chocolate-rye whiskey with Fee’s Aztec Chocolate Bitters. There is a lot going on and it takes some time to pull off, but it is worth it.
Published: March 13, 2013
Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, it is my pleasure to announce the winner of the Green Cocktail Contest today. Top honors go to Jason Walsh for his refreshing cocktail, the Cucumber-Tea-Ni.
This drink is an interesting mix of Tito’s Vodka, Chartreuse, Sencha green tea syrup, lemon juice, and cucumber. When combined, the cocktail is a sensuous herbal mix filled with fresh flavors and it is nothing short of a thrill to drink.
This innovative mixologist is currently the head mixologist at NYC’s Bistro La Pomenade. He tells me he is reworking the cocktail menu and, if you haven’t been there lately, now would be a great time to stop by and see what is new.
I also want to give credit to the other two finalists in the contest. Both are amazing drinks and would make excellent additions to this weekend’s party.
Brandy: Leviathan No. 2
Published: February 16, 2013
We have a winner in the first cocktail contest of 2013 (theme – Brandy Cocktails) and I am happy to announce that the recipe that took top honors is the Leviathan No. 2 created by Adam Hrapko.
Hrapko is currently working as a junior bartender for the Black Angel’s Bar in Prague, Czech Republic and his inspiration for this drink was the Leviathan, which was created by another Czech bartender, Rudolf Slavik. You can read more about that in the recipe, but for now allow me to tantalize your taste buds with the drink’s mix: Martell Cognac XO, Carpano Antica Formula (sweet vermouth with extras), Vermouth del Professore Bianco (dry vermouth), orange juice, and Becherovka (herbal bitter liqueur). Sure, the ingredients may be a mouthful, but if you take the time to hunt down these ingredients you will not be disappointed. The finished cocktail is a fascinating depth of flavor, very classically styled, and a rich, satisfying mouthfeel that is nothing short of elegant.
When I decided to theme this contest with brandy and open it up to all liquors that are technically considered ‘brandies’ I knew that we would get some amazing drinks submitted and, yes, there are a number of recipes that used flavored brandies or pisco as their base. As always, I have to give credit to the other recipe finalists because I think they are very fine drinks to point out as well. Give both of these drinks a try as well, I think you will really enjoy them.