Every month or so I ask readers to share their original cocktail recipes that fit a particular theme. These cocktail contests have been going strong since 2010 and I continue to be amazed at the innovative drinks submitted by both professional bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts.
This is the ongoing archive of results from 2014's contests and, once again, it includes some fabulous drinks that you will want to explore. Not only can you read my full commentary and get the winning recipes, but I've also included those submissions that I made it to the finals and also warrant some attention. It is a great way to know what's going on in the cocktail world and as you browse through the annual archives you will notice some trends that are worthy of note as well.
Updated: June 20,2014
We are currently taking a break from the contests and a new one will be announced in September. Check back here for the latest results, and you can always stay on top of the latest news by subscribing to my newsletter.
Herbs: Basil B. Bennett
Published: May 29, 2014
It was a short and sweet contest and three fantastic recipes came in, but only one can be declared the winner of this month’s Herb Cocktail Contest. That recipe is the Basil B. Bennett and it comes to us from Mike Manjon from New York City.
The drink is one of those simple, four-ingredient gems that has a wonderful balance and a fresh, aromatic snap that is, quite simply, a delight to sip. In it, Manjon mixes a London dry gin, lime juice, Bittermen’s Celery Shrub, and a homemade basil syrup. It is the syrup that really sets the drink apart and adds a snappy sweetness that is quite fun. This is a great drink for summer and just one more example of how great basil can be in drinks.
Though there were only two other recipes submitted, they are both very interesting and I recommend trying each as well…
Rita’s Wicked Garden – An amplified margarita, this one is very, very herbal. It includes tequila, uses Mandarin Napoleon for the citrus liqueur, and adds cilantro, dill, and basil along with cucumber to the mix.
Perennial Spring – Danny Parlin’s recipe takes a different approach than the others. This one is a creamy drink with Bols Genever, two herb syrups, egg white, mint, and club soda.
Fruit: Frisco 49
Published: May 14, 2014
The results of the fruit cocktail contest from April are in and I have a fantastic wine cocktail to share with you. The winning recipe comes from Brian Chandlor with his Frisco 49 cocktail and it has a couple of homemade ingredients for all of you love who a little bar DIY.
The Frisco 49 begins with a pear-infused gin that uses two varieties and for which Chandlor recommends Citadelle and gins that are not too dry. He then makes up a roasted honey peach syrup with hints of cinnamon and mixes both of these with lemon and dry sparkling wine. When complete, the cocktail is amazing. It has a great balance of flavor and the sweet and dry elements are perfectly in tune with one another.
Now, to finish up this business, there are two more noteworthy cocktails to highlight. These were the other finalists and worth trying as well…
Spicy Cucumber Gin Fizz – The name does a fair job of explaining this drink from Jennifer Welsh of the Big Y Group and the jalapeno is a fun contrast to the kiwi and cucumber. Go with a London dry gin for this one.
- Ruby Red Swizzle – Faith Towers of Design Fixation did a lovely job in constructing this fun drink of gin, maraschino, grapefruit, and rosemary. It’s perfect for the summer months, so the timing could not be better.
Savory: Smoke and Spice and Everything Nice
Published: April 16, 2014
Mezcal is the star of the latest winning recipe in the monthly cocktail contest. The theme for March was savory cocktails and today I get to announce that a spicy little drink called Smoke and Spice and Everything Nice is the winner. It was created by Diana Novak, who has recently written for Tasting Panel Magazine and works with craft spirits for Palm Bay International.
The drink is everything that its name implies. It has a great, complex flavor profile which makes it one of those drinks for people seeking a little adventure. Novak has chosen a nice reposado mezcal for the base and added cilantro, lime, agave nectar, and jalapeno. She then tops it off with Tabasco and ginger beer. The smoke of the mezcal and the crispness of the cilantro work surprisingly well with the hot peppers and the ginger beer is that magical touch that both contrasts and compliments everything to create a well balanced, shockingly good drink.
There are two more savory cocktails to talk about today. Each is interesting and great examples of what a savory beverage can be. Here are the other finalists…
Tom Kh(a)up – Inspired by a popular Thai soup, this is a fun drink from Sunny Mayer. Among its ingredients are Reyka Vodka, Thai basil and chili, lemongrass, coconut, and ginger beer.
Nuclear Bombay – Alex Taylor has a great recipe for spicing up Bombay Sapphire and it involves olives, cucumbers, and cayenne.
Published: March 13, 2014
Babycakes is a sweet little drink and exactly what I was hoping for with last month’s Sweet Cocktail Contest. The cocktail is the creation of Amber D. Peterson (twitter: BarChefAmber), a native Midwesterner now in New Orleans working, among other things, as Corporate Bar Chef for Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse where you may have noticed this drink on the menu during this year’s Mardi Gras festivities. In the past couple of months I have fallen for Peterson’s drinks – last month she shared the Winter Still (see below) – and it is obvious that her 20+ years in the food and beverage industry have culminated into a very fun, well-balanced style.
On to the cocktail… The Babycakes is a liquid cake with just the right amount of sweetness and is creamy, but not too creamy. It’s one that I think will appeal to many people. It begins with a mix of Crop Organic Meyer Lemon Vodka and Old New Orleans Crystal Rum. Add to that milk, cinnamon-vanilla then orgeat syrups, a dash of bitters and you have a lemony-cake with a hint of spice. In Mardi Gras fashion, Peterson garnishes this with King Cake-colored sugars, though you could switch out the colors to fit any occasion. All said and done, you have a fantastic cocktail and one worthy of winning top honors.
There were many great cocktails submitted in February’s contest and I encourage you to browse through all of the sweetened entries. There are two, however, that I especially enjoyed and which made into the final round alongside Babycakes…
Fraise des Bois – Glenn in Singapore shared this ice cream cocktail that is fun to mix up. Not blended, but shaken, the mix is one of strawberries and strawberry liqueur, Frangelico and amaretto, lemon, syrup, and a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.
Blueberry Gin Fizz – A simple take on a favorite, Juliana Montebello-Roman submitted this recipe that mixes Hendrick’s Gin with lemon and syrup and the sweetness only found in fresh blueberries.
Whiskey: Ides of March
Published: February 12, 2014
The results are in and I’m happy to announce that we have a winner from January’s Whiskey Cocktail Contest. You continue to astound me with your submissions and everyone who submitted in this round made my job very, very difficult. You can certainly mix your whiskey, yet there can only be one winner. The top honor for this one goes to Michael Bounds of Baton Rouge, Louisiana for his Ides of March cocktail.
The Ides of March is a simple cocktail with no exotic ingredients, yet the balance that its creator has found is spectacular. The mix is one of Maker’s Mark, Aperol, blood orange syrup, and lemon juice, that’s it. The result is an aperitif with a perfect balance of sweet, tart, and bitter that wakes up the taste buds. The blood orange really makes this drink stand out and they are still in season, so now is the perfect time to try this cocktail in its freshest form.
Here are the drinks that gave me the most difficult time in this decision, I recommend that you explore each because they all warrant a taste.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – Rafa Garcia Febles has another fantastic drink to share. This one uses rye whiskey, Fernet Branca, Benedictine, and Angostura Bitters. The word aromatic does not do this one justice.
The Powder Horn – Last month’s winner, Cody Frederickson, shared a great Scotch drink in this round. He mixes Monkey Shoulder with Lillet Rouge, maraschino, lemon juice, and raspberries. It is a stylish cocktail.
Five Spice Mule – These last two drinks use shrubs to add an interesting touch. This one comes from Jennifer and Colette who are behind The Gingered Pear brand of shrubs. It uses their Apple Fennel Shrub with bourbon, Bar Keep Chinese Bitters, and ginger beer and it sparkles with flavor.
Winter Still – Amber Peterson gave us this shrub-infused cocktail that was created for the Bourbon House Restaurant in New Orleans. It uses George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey, a blueberry-basil shrub, Byrrh Grand Quinquina, and Bar Keep Swedish Herb Bitters. Both the suggested Cascade Hollow from George Dickel and this particular bitters are now off the market, but if you have them around, this is a not-to-miss cocktail. Of course, any of the Tennessee whiskies would be a fine substitute.