Great cocktails, great music, and 10 great bartenders where else could I be but the 10 Best Bartenders Awards at Cargo/Lounge on October 13, 2010. There were two titles in contention over the course of the night, the first title was the Cargo Lounge Freestyle Cocktail Sessions Champion and the other was Freestyle Cocktail Sessions Peoples Choice Award.
With the evening split into three sessions, where the ten bartenders both made their signature cocktails and entertained the crowd in the process, I was keen to try as many cocktails as possible sipping at other peoples cocktails to make sure I could taste them all.
The first cocktail I tried was “The Big Street Cooler” from Blake Head of Rockpool Bar & Grill. This cocktail Belvedere Black Raspberry, Creme de Peche, Lillet Blanc, apple and citrus juices, fresh apple, raspberries, peach and mint topped with sparkling wine. This was a fantastic cocktail and the taste developed and changed over time, and in my opinion impressed me more with a little age when the mint flavours strengthened and mixed with the fruit.
A personal favourite of mine was “The Scottish Stinging Thistle” from the Victoria Room’s Lee Potter-Cavanagh. Potter-Cavanagh created a very unique flavour combination by combining Gelnmorangie 10yr, Creme de Cacao, Creme de Menthe, orange bitters and vanilla pods. This cocktail was lit at the bar and served with the warning of making sure the drink, and its fumes, had cooled down before it was drunk.
Next, Zeta Bar’s Doron Waite created “From Poland to Paris” creating a delicious cocktail combining Belvedere Pomarancza, Apricot Brandy, La Fee Parisian Absinthe and citrus. This cocktail created the wonderful fruity undertones of of apricot and peach which was complemented beautifully with the flavour of the absinthe (a taste i have enjoyed immensely from my travels – and not for the faint hearted) and the citrus flavours also lending another dimension to the drink.
“The Dusty Trail” from Andres Walters of The Loft was created using Belvedere Pomarancza, Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur, orange bitters and caramel syrup. “The Dusty Trail” for me was the predominant taste of the sweetness of the Wild Turkey and caramel syrup which complemented well with the citrus and orange bitters. Walters was also one of the DJs on the night , as were the other contenders.
Another bartender, Alex Relic, of Low 302, served “Surely Shirley” made from Hennesy VS, Rosso Antico Vermouth, 10 Cane Rum, citrus and grenadine, which was everything that you look for in a classic cocktail. There was a great mix of flavours with the Hennesy, Vermouth and Rum being offset by the citrus and grenadine and was a drink that left you wanting more.
“Caroline” by Eau De Vie’s Max Greco was made from Belvedere Citrus, Belvedere Pomarancza, Tuaca, vanilla and citrus. Greco’s cocktail was as delicious as it sounded with the two Belvedere vodka flavours being perfectly balanced with the vanilla and citrus. The Tuaca was the ingredient which combined and brought together the citrus and vanailla flavours, while also providing a link to Greco’s Italian heritage.
“The Pineapple Express” by Ben Eakins of the Ivy created a gem using Belvedere Pure, St Germain Elderflower, cardomom pods and fresh pineapple. This cocktail was lovely, and was a very delicate cocktail with very subtle flavours, and no one component overpowering the others. The cardamom gave the cocktail a slight edge, as long as you didn’t bite into it like one of the guests, and I finished my glass wanting more.
“The Orchid Emperor” was next, a Jimmy Maguire creation of Kit & Kaboodle using Belvedere citrus, Sake, Plum jam and citrus. This was another favourite of mine as it had multiple fascinating dimensions to it. The taste itself was magnificent with the plum flavour resonating through the sake and citrus but what amazed me the most was the smell. This cocktail actually smelt like an orchid with a very delicate aroma matching the flavours beautifully.
The Cargo Lounge Freestyle Cocktail Sessions Champion was Andy Penny of The Flinders Hotel for his cocktail “There’s a Banana Between My Sheets” which combined Hennesy VS, 10 Cane Rum, Creme de Banane and citrus. This was given as the judges award for the best cocktail on the night, and you could see why. The Hennesy and Cane Rum were mixed to perfection with the banana and citrus. I found this to be an amazingly smooth drink with an even better aftertaste.
“The Denoix Cue” was from Cargo/Bar/Lounge’s very own Stewart Luk who concocted his cocktail using Belvedere Citrus, Domaine de Canton, lychees, pink grapefruit juice and mint. The citrus and ginger flavours combined beautifully, with the ginger accentuating the lemon and lime flavours of the vodka base and it is no wonder why he was the winner of the Freestyle Cocktail Sessions Peoples Choice Award.
Luk said he chose the name “The Denoix Cue” as a little play on words both as a homage to Belvedere flavour expert Elie-Arnaud Denoix, who helped create a flavour profile alphabet that Belvedere use to flavour their citrus vodka, and also to the name of the recipe which gave Belvedere Citrus, namely Q11.
Overall, all the cocktails provided wonderfully balanced flavours, and innovative combinations, and although there could only be the two winners all of the cocktails were contenders in my book and I will be definitely be visiting their establishments in the future to taste some of their other creations.
The Denoix Cue
50ml Belvedere Citrus
10ml Domaine De Canton (Ginger Liqueur)
10ml Lychee syrup*
20ml Fresh pink grapefruit juice
2 leaves of mint.
Garnish: Candied Orange Crisp**
Add all ingredients to mixing glass, press mint and add to glass and shake with ice.
Fine strain into martini and garnish with candied orange crisp.
*lychee syrup: blend a can of lychees with 1 shot of lychee liqueur and pass through muslin cloth to leave only liquid.
** candied orange crisps: thinly slice oranges and bake overnight on bed of white sugar.