Summer competition cocktails

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Monday’s Oregon Bartender’s Guild cocktail competition at Hobnob Grille was a great success, raising enough money for Schoolhouse Supplies to equip an entire classroom of children for a full school year. The drinks were great too and it would have been hard to pick a winner. Somehow the audience did though, and it just so happened to be me. What can I say, Portlanders have great taste in cocktails.

Jennifer has a full write-up of the event with photos at her blog Savor It. Each of the bartenders was randomly assigned two Oregon spirits with which to create their drinks. I ended up with two I hadn’t tried before, Organic Nation gin and Dolmen Worker Bee honey spirit, both of which I like. My first round used the gin and fresh Hermiston watermelon for the Gallagher cocktail:

2 oz Organic Nation gin
1 oz watermelon juice
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz Swedish punsch*

Shake the first four ingredients over ice and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with soda and stir. The garnish is a pickled watermelon rind. I used Scott Beattie’s pickling liquid recipe from Artisinal Cocktails and the rind became nice and tasty after just two days of soaking. The drink is perfect for sipping outside in the summer. It’s crisp and refreshing and the smoky aftertaste from the Swedish punsch would go great with a grilled burger.

With round two I turned to the Dolmen honey spirit, an 80 proof liquor distilled from mead. Here’s the Mandeville:

2 oz Dolmen Worker Bee
.5 oz lemon juice
.33 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
.25 oz honey-lavender syrup (recipe here)
1 dash Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters
10 muddled blueberries

Muddle the blueberries and syrup before adding the rest of the ingredients. Shake over ice and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass garnished with berries. This drink has layers of floral tastes without being overpowering and a lingering sweetness from the honey. The crowd really went for this drink. I’m sure the fact that it was their 12th of the night helped it along!

The Mandeville’s an updated and improved version of my old Blue Beetle cocktail. It works well with vodka too, but the substitution of honey-lavender syrup for simple syrup and Scrappy’s bitters for orange flower water makes it much better than the original. Scrappy’s entire line of bitters is worth checking out and if you can get your hands on a bottle you definitely should. It’s made in small batches in Seattle.

The name, by the way, is a reference to Bernard Mandeville, author of The Fable of the Bees. Mandeville satirized British morality by arguing that personal vice often led to public virtue, a fitting allusion on a night dedicated to drinking cocktails to raise money for children.

*Swedish punsch is a classic cocktail ingredient usually made with Batavia-Arrack, tea, sugar, lemon juice, and spices. I claim no expertise on this and my recipe is a simple variation of Max Toste’s, featured in Imbibe back in January. The only difference is that where Max uses simple syrup I use a syrup made of equal parts sugar and lapsang souchong tea. Lapsang souchong is an intensely flavorful black tea smoked over pine wood, which gives the resulting punsch an even stronger smoky character. Here’s the recipe:

9 oz lapsang souchong syrup
6 oz Batavia-Arrack von Oosten
3 oz lemon juice
.25 tsp grated nutmeg
seeds from 10 cardamom pods, ground

Steep ingredients refrigerated for 24 hours then strain into bottle.


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