Thursday, June 25, 2015

Looking Back - Bacardí Legacy Global Finals

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Maybe you've heard rumblings at your local watering hole that your favorite bartender just won a competition and that winning drink is now legendary at said watering hole, a secret order for those in the know. But what is it with all these competitions exactly? Every year it seems like another one is created, luring more and more bartenders to enter the competitive circuit. For those not trolling the bartender competition notice pages, the most renowned cocktail competitions include Diageo World Class, Bombay Sapphire World's Most Imaginative Bartender, and Bacardí Legacy.

I was recently invited to Sydney for the Bacardí Legacy Global Finals, an overwhelming event to say the least. It was my first bartender competition, so I came in a little cynical and not knowing what to expect, whereas other writers who live on the competition press circuit seemed to know all the rules and many contestants from previous events.

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The biggest question is, why would a bartender enter a competition? Exposure, of course. Competitions are the fastest way for up and coming talent to get their names out there, and winning opens doors for further opportunities such as brand ambassador positions or being invited to parties and events. Naturally, some bartenders enter the same competitions year after year seeking victory, and travel from one to the next in search of the big 'life-changing' win. For others, Bacardí Legacy was the first taste of what fame might feel like - photo shoots, interviews, and international plane tickets.

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Alissa Gabriel of Australia
 
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Algirdas Mulevicius of Lithuania
 
The Bacardí Legacy competition challenges bartenders to create a cocktail that will "stand the test of time" - a classic that could rival Bacardí's beloved Daiquiri. Bartenders have seven minutes to make their cocktail, whilst showing off just enough bartender flair to make the judges swoon, and to present the inspiration for their drink. This usually includes an over-wrought tale of family loyalty (relating to the family of Bacardí, natch), the homeland, or some other sob story which frankly distracts from the drink itself. Yes, tears were shed on that gilded stage.

The cocktail is then presented to the judges who taste the drink, assess it based on the name, the technical skills of the bartender, aesthetics (read, garnish game), ingenuity & innovation, inspiration, product knowledge, and its ability to stand as a classic cocktail. It should be noted that the audience does not taste the drink.

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Father's Advice - Ready for Judging
 
Before the Semi-Finals were held in Sydney, all of the bartenders were filled with nervous energy - prepping for their presentations, rehearsing their lines, fixing eyeliner and straightening ties. They all seemed to walk a little taller - champions of their own country.

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Ran Duan of The United States of America
 
The Semi-Final announcement was made over a grand dinner at the Sydney NSW Art Gallery, and the finalists included France, China, Lebanon, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, Singapore, and Greece. Again, tears were shed.

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Finals were held at Sydney's Town Hall, where the stage was set beneath a monstrous organ cloaked in red lighting. Surely, the finalists must have felt like heroes on that stage, flanked by enormous screens and surrounded by heroically lit Bacardí bottles.

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Chua Zhibin Peter of Singapore
 
The 2015 winner was Frank Dedieu of France, who created a cocktail called 'Le Latin' made with Bacardí Carta Blanca, Viognier wine, lemon juice, olive brine, and sugar, inspired by his wine making family (and of course, the Bacardí family). In the weeks following the competition, Dedieu has returned to his home bar "Redwood" located in Lyon with much fanfare. "My friend and business partner organized a big party, [and] I have...[celebrated] my victory with my family in the south of France in Montpellier. These moments of happiness with family and friends are priceless", Dedieu shares.

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Le Latin by Frank Dedieu
 
Because cocktail competitions are a relatively new phenomenon, we have yet to see the true impact that winning a competition can have on a bartender's career. Some winners have gone on to create names for themselves, but many are forgotten. Only time will tell what Dedieu does with his victory.

---

The following day, Bacardí sponsored a party for all of the bartenders on Cockatoo Island, a casual Tiki BBQ - a party that Bacardí has mastered. Gone were the ties, the vests, the party dresses, and the carefully styled facial hair. The finalists were relaxed, no longer on edge nor eying their competition, instead they were friendly and enjoying the moment.

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David Cordoba, Bacardí Global Ambassador Flanked by Competitors
 
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Daniele Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge Bar in Bologna
 
Rum filled pineapples were sipped, bottles juggled with suave flair, and the whole experience became crystal clear to me. These competitions are more than just a big branding opportunity - they are an incredible way for talented bartenders to meet other talented bartenders, share ideas and tricks of the trade, they inspire contestants to develop their craft, and to develop mentorships with brand ambassadors who once started behind the bar. These competitions create a vision for what other opportunities exist in the world for a bartender, and they motivate people to shape their own careers.  Most importantly, a great competition creates amazing experiences that bring people together, and that is how you create loyalty.

So - next time you order that secret cocktail at your local watering hole and it's proudly made with Bacardí - now you know why.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

THANKS TO YOU - SAVEUR BEST COCKTAIL AND SPIRITS BLOG 2015!




All I can say is - THANK YOU.  Thanks to all of your votes I WON


After three years of being nominated for the Saveur Best Blog Awards (which is amazing in it's own right, I don't know any other blogs that have been nominated three years in a row), Gastronomista finally took home the Readers' Choice Award!!


EEEEEEEE - THANK YOU!

Thank you for voting, this year, and every year.  Thank you for your comments, your boozy enthusiasm, and your support.  Bigger thanks to Saveur Magazine, a group of wonderfully talented people, thank you for this amazing opportunity!

Gastronomista is one of the most rewarding projects I have ever worked on - it has taken me to far flung corners of the earth, I have made life-long friends, and made many treasured memories.

Today, and every day, I feel incredibly blessed.  Thank you for joining me on this imbibing journey - I'm bubbling with excitement to see what's next!

CHEERS!

xo


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Paloma Real Punch


Paloma Real Punch

I love punch.  I love making punch.  I love drinking punch.  And so does everyone else I know.  

It is a proven fact that punch makes parties better - because you can actually enjoy the party instead of making everyone margaritas!

I'm always on the lookout for good punch recipes, and this one is too good not to share.  It was created by Masa Urushido of Saxon + Parole in NYC, and he shared the recipe on his instagram account (thank you).  It is just the right amount of boozy, fruity, and refreshing, everything you want in a nice summer punch!

Without further ado:

Paloma Real
Created by Masa Urushido

6 oz Olmeca Altos Plata
4 oz Lillet Rose (Can sub for Lillet Blanc)
4 oz Falernum
6 oz Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
10 oz Hibiscus Tea
3 T Lilac-Grapefruit Oleo Saccharum
1 Bottle of Prosecco
Taragon, Ginger, Whole Nutmeg in a Cheese-Cloth Bouquet

Build over an ice block, garnish with slices of Grapefruits, Lemons, and Fresh Tarragon.

Lilac-Grapefruit Oleo Saccharum

Peel two pink grapefruits and put in a ziplock bag with 1/2 C sugar and the Lilac (can substitute dried Lavender).  Place in the refrigerator overnight until it becomes a syrup.

Cheers!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lady Crush - Ali Rosen of Potluck Video

I met Ali Rosen a few years ago when she was working with The Daily Meal, and my first impression was that she was an independent and incredibly driven woman who was going to make a name for herself (read, pistol, and exactly the kind of women we like around here).  I was right. 

In the few years since leaving The Daily Meal, Ms Rosen has started her own Video Platform, Potluck Video, which can be seen on her website as well as on NYC Life, Huffington Post, People.com, and Edible.  She was named one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 in 2014, and was recently nominated for a freaking EMMY for the Informational Video category!

I sat down with her to ask a few questions about why she wanted to start Potluck Video and about some of her favorite interviews and meals from her travels around the world.

Without further ado...


Gastronomista:  What inspired you to start Potluck Video?

Ali Rosen:  Women entrepreneurs across all fields who I know inspired me to go out on my own. Seeing people working hard but for themselves was really motivating for me to think that I could make it on my own. So many of my favorite shows and websites now are woman-run mad owned enterprises (yourself included!) so I just thought it was time to keep doing what I loved but on my own terms.


G:  What do you love about your job?

AR:  I love getting to tell a story every day and I love that my angle is always a positive, educational one. We don't do reviews or critiques - there's a huge place for that in the food and drink world but it's not something I'm interested in. I get to find great restaurants or people and then share their stories and creativity every day - so it's hard to argue with getting up in the morning for that!


G:  What has been your favorite interview?

AR:  There are so many - I did 900 videos at The Daily Meal and we have over 400 videos now for Potluck so there are many favorites! But I've been able to do some long sit-down interviews with legends - Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Rene Redzepi, the late Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz - and those are always so humbling and gratifying when you feel like you do them justice. And then the other favorites are the people who are so full of joy and life that you can't possibly not have fun with them. Desmond Payne, the Master Distiller at Beefeater, who I have been lucky enough to interview twice, comes to mind. John Besh is one of the most humble and enjoyable people to interview. I'm a huge fan of Dorie Greenspan's books but in person she just makes you want to seize the day with her positivity. And now I know I'm leaving out so many more that I loved. I truly enjoy interviewing people so the list of favorites probably could go on forever!


G:  What has been your favorite dish that you've learned about from potluck video?

AR:  We do a series called 'The Dish' which delves into the inspiration behind signature dishes, so it would probably be one from that because it's so interesting. I'm a bit obsessed lately with Huertas' 'Huertas Rotos' so probably that!


G:  Best meal?

AR:  Is it incredibly cliche to say Noma? That or just my favorite spots in my hometown, Charleston, like Hominy Grill or Slightly North of Broad


G:  Chef that inspires you the most?

AR:  I just did an interview with Anita Lo so maybe she is top of mind, but she is someone I admire because she is really all about putting out great food and staying focused on that. A lot of chefs get sidetracked and open too many projects and then their flagships suffer. So she is certainly someone whose creativity and high bar I admire. I also really admire chefs like Tom Colicchio and Jose Andres who use their high profile to talk about food policy issues in this country.


G:  You get to travel a lot, what's your favorite place you've been?

AR: I lived in India so i will always be pushing people to visit and delve into the diversity of Indian cuisine. But I think my absolute favorite place to eat is Japan. I have been twice and I am constantly trying to plan another way to go back. Japanese food, I think, is the most sophisticated cuisine and we only see a fraction of it in the US. So anyone who loves food - and drinking because the sake, sochu and whisky there are also incredible - should really put Japan at the top of their list.


Lightning Round:

G:  Hometown favorite food
 
AR:  Has to be steamed oysters (if you haven't had it, get down to Charleston). In New York it is the octopus bolognese at Louro or beets at ABC kitchen


G:  Guilty Pleasure
AR:  My own grits made with bacon grease (trust me, it's the secret sauce)



 

G:  Breakfast in Bed
 
AR:  Just yesterday my husband brought me the Greek Omelette and potatoes from our next door deli, so can't argue with that. 

G: Pick your poison

AR:  Nothing like a perfect G&T 


G:  Last Meal
 
AR:  Can I have that aforementioned octopus bolognese and the beets? Maybe throw in a DKA from Dominique Ansel, some grits and my grandmother's strawberry rhubarb pie. Maybe not in that order though!


Thank you for your time Ali, we here at Gastro HQ are excited to see what is next! 

Check out Potluck Video HERE>>

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Spring Cocktails on Potluck Video!

Not long ago I shot a video on two of my favorite spring cocktails with Ali Rosen of Potluck Video, including the Vermouth Cobbler and the Isfahan Rose.

It was so much fun to share these recipes with Ali, but it also reminded me why I'm not a real bartender - just a booze blogger!!!  The video was a lot of fun to make, and I was so thrilled to share these two drinks with Ali and her audience!!

Head over to Potluck Video for more chef interviews, cooking tips, and some mighty pretty food porn!! 

Enjoy!


Monday, April 20, 2015

The Opal Nautilus


I have always enjoyed visiting historical castles and palaces, not only for their architectural grandeur, but to try to imagine how people must have lived.  I love thinking about the day to day lives of the people that brought amazing buildings to life - from the kitchen maids to the kings and queens with their odd habits.  Most of all I love looking at the objects that were used every day - jewelry, hair combs, weapons, and of course, their cocktail cups.  Perhaps the most extravagant are the meticulously carved, gilded, and gorgeously presented Nautilus Cups.  Nautilus shells are beautiful on their own, and are incredibly decadent when covered in gold.  Behold:


So when I found Nautilus shells a few months back, I knew immediately what I wanted to do with them.  Drink out of them.


A gorgeous vessel such as a Nautilus deserves a equally gorgeous cocktail, so when creating this drink I started off with one of my favorite spirits, Casa Dragones Blanco.  It's designed for mixing, and has a unique complexity with flavors of celery, agave, melon, grapefruit, fresh herbs, mint, and a subtle saltiness that makes it incredibly seductive.


When I first tasted Casa Dragones I wanted to make a cocktail with jicama, another flavor note that I find in the tequila.  The opal basil and the jicama work really well together, and just a touch of Aquavit plays up the herbal qualities of the tequila.  The cocktail itself is a lovely purple color, and with a few little leaves of opal basil floating on the surface, it is a lovely drink even without a Nautilus shell.

But trust me, you'll want to drink it out of a Nautilus shell, toes in the sand, feeling like royalty. 






The Opal Nautilus
Created by Gastronomista

2 oz Casa Dragones Blanco Tequila
1/2 oz Agave
1/4 oz Aquavit
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
4 Drops Bittered Sling Celery Bitters
Fresh Jicama
Fresh Opal Basil

In a large tin, muddle 1 Tablespoon Diced Jicama with Agave and 4 leaves of Opal Basil.  Add Tequila, Aquavit, Lime Juice and Bitters.  Shake with a large ice cube, and strain into your cocktail glass (or shell).

This post is to be included in Clinton Kelly's Make Over Your Margarita challenge, click through for more Margaritas! >>


Note:  The size of my shell was so large that I quadrupled the recipe.  For cocktails of such a large volume, use the buddy system and 2 straws. 




If you cannot find Casa Dragones Tequila, or if you're looking for something more affordable, try Altos Tequila.  It's great for mixing and also has nice vegetal characteristics.


Styling Notes
Pewter Tray - Vagabond House
Glass Straws - Hummingbird Straws
Real Nautilus Shell


Monday, March 30, 2015

Gastronomista Nominated for Saveur Best Cocktail Blog 2015!

YOU GUYS!!  I am SO EXCITED TO TELL YOU that Gastronomista has been nominated for the SAVEUR Best Blog Awards for the 3rd year in a row!!!

#4 = Gastronomista - CLICK TO VOTE

I am so overwhelmed and humbled by this nomination.  I have been working hard to push the boundary of the at-home cocktail experience - making culinary-based cocktails that are both beautiful and delicious.  I have many favorite recipes over the last year and I will be re-sharing them with you over the next month on social media with new notes and tips for those of you at home.

Gastronomista is my labor of love - and all of your feedback, comments, and shares mean the world to me.  Thank you for your never ending support, your enthusiasm for forward-thinking cocktails, and your thirst for life.  I cannot even express to you how much happiness this website brings to my life.  I am forever grateful for the opportunities that it has offered me, and I thank every single one of my readers for helping me get here.  I wish I could make each and everyone of you a cocktail to express my gratitude.  

Until I figure out that whole cocktail wonka-vision thing, please VOTE for Gastronomista for the WIN : Voting ends April 30th 2015

If anyone has wonka-vision suggestions, I am all ears.

All my love,

emily

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Vermouth Cobblers!

 Gastronomista Vermouth Cobbler

Spring is right around the corner, and I'm already craving refreshing cocktails made with low alcohol spirits, fresh fruit, and topped with sparkling water. The cobbler is a classic made with a range of different spirits from bourbon, brandy, or sherry and are topped with crushed ice.

Gastronomista Vermouth Cobbler

Today I bring you a Vermouth Cobbler, an extremely simple cocktail made with American Vermouth, Sugar, Orange Slices, and fresh herbs.  I used BroVo's Pink vermouth, a wonderfully aromatic and fruity rosé vermouth made in Woodinville, Washington.  I've topped it off with a sprig of rosemary to enhance the savory flavors found in the vermouth, a reminder that summer will be here soon!

Vermouth is a fortified wine - so essentially this is a grown-up wine spritzer!  Use a high-quality vermouth to ensure the quality of your cocktails, and don't forget to store the vermouth in the refrigerator.  The best part?  As the party goes on, you can add more sparkling water and secretly hydrate!

Gastronomista Vermouth Cobbler

Gastronomista Vermouth Cobbler

Gastronomista Vermouth Cobbler

Gastronomista Vermouth Cobbler

Gastronomista Vermouth Cobbler

Vermouth Cobbler

3 oz BroVo Pink Vermouth
1/2 oz Simple Syrup or a Spoon of Sugar
Club Soda or Seltzer (I used Fever Tree Club Soda)
2 Orange Slices
Sprig of Rosemary

Muddle Sugar and an Orange Slice in the bottom of a high-ball glass.  Add vermouth and top with crushed ice.  Top with seltzer and garnish with a Rosemary Sprig and a Fresh Slice of Orange. 

Cheers!

Gastronomista Vermouth Cobbler

Gastronomista Vermouth Cobbler

Gastronomista Vermouth Cobbler

Gastronomista Vermouth Cobbler

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pickleback Redux - Beets!

Gastronomista Beet Pickleback

I've loved beets ever since I was a kid - especially when pickled in cider vinegar with loads of cinnamon and cloves.  I used to eat them straight out of the jar as a midnight snack.  I was always hypnotically transfixed by the vibrant magenta hue of beets - something I continue to find to be mesmerizing.  

I also have a bit of a Kombucha obsession - and when I purchased the new Beet Health-Ade Kombucha I was impressed that they were able to retain the vibrancy of the beets.  So, naturally I wanted to make it into a cocktail!

I instantly thought of a pickleback - a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice.  The kombucha has a slight vinegary taste to it, so it's an honorable substitution. 

The Beet Pickleback can be done in two ways. 

Option 1 - Shot of White Whiskey (I used Jim Beam Ghost - a filtered bourbon) followed by a shot of Beet Kombucha.

Gastronomista Beet Pickleback

Option 2 - A Beet Pickleback Cocktail made with White Whiskey, Beet Kombucha, Simple Syrup, an Applewood Smoked Salt Rim, and Garnished with Pink Peppercorns and a Quick Pickled Beet Slice.

I'll take the latter, thank you very much.

Gastronomista Beet Pickleback

It's a bit like a briny bloody mary, but with more sweetness thanks to the beets and the corn in the bourbon.  The smoked salt rim makes this cocktail extra savory, and adds a wonderful smoked aroma to the cocktail.  The pink peppercorn adds just a touch of spiciness with a subtle floral flavor, and the peppercorns look mighty pretty floating in this deceptive pink drink.  This is an awesomely surprising cocktail.  In the words of Taylor Swift:  "This.  Sick.  Beet."

Gastronomista Beet Pickleback

Gastronomista Beet Pickleback

Gastronomista Beet Pickleback

Beet Pickleback Cocktail
Created by Gastronomista

1 oz Jim Beam Ghost
2 oz Beet Kombucha
1/2 oz 1:1 Simple Syrup

Applewood Smoked Salt for Garnish
Pink Peppercorns for Garnish

Swipe rim of glass with fresh lemon juice, and rim glass with Applewood Smoked Salt.  In a mixing glass, stir White Whiskey, Beet Kombucha, and Simple Syrup with Ice for 30 seconds, and strain into the cocktail coupe.  Garnish with a Quick Pickled Beet Slice.

Gastronomista Beet Pickleback

Quick Pickled Beets

Slice Beets into Thin Slices.  Place in a bowl with 1/2 Cup White Vinegar, 1/2 Tablespoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Let sit for 15-20 minutes, and then strain.  Add peppercorns, sugar, or salt to taste. 

Gastronomista Beet Pickleback

Gastronomista Beet Pickleback

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