Over the course of one week at Tales of the Cocktail I sampled approximately 100 cocktails/spirits. (Why so few? I was a volunteer as well as an attendee, which meant no drinking for 15 total crucial conference hours.)
Acknowledging that every attendee’s list will differ, here are the cocktails that struck me most deeply:
#1 : Dale DeGroff’s Abeja Limeña
Event: Make It, Eat It, Drink It from the Trade Commission of Peru in Miami
This take on a pisco sour highlights the torontel grape’s aromatic notes against just the right citrus zing. Aromatic pisco (brand unknown, possibly Founding Farmers but I think DeGroff said it was a single-grape pisco), honey syrup, lime, yuzu, and a red shiso garnish. My goal in the next six months (hell, I may be haunted my whole life) is to find the right pisco and the right proportions of other ingredients to recreate this memory.
In the interim, here’s a close-but-not quite version from DeGroff:
2oz Pisco Italia (I think Torontel instead)
.25 lime juice
.5 oz honey syrup (recipe lists 2:1, but DeGroff said 1:1)
.12 oz yuzu
Shake, strain, garnish with lime (and red shiso)
Event: Do You Suze? Flagship party.
Pandan is still a relatively unfamiliar ingredient where I drink, but Méquignon tells me that the French use it like Americans use vanilla. “We put it on our ice cream,” he said. It was sweet, herbal, energizingly bright, and perfect. Pandan will haunt me until it hits these shores.
#3 : Rutte Distillery’s genever/gin tasting
Event: From the people that invented Gin but do not mind the English claiming it, presented by Rutte
Though billed as a free tasting, this was as educational as a seminar. Presenters from the Netherlands, England, and America — genever’s most influential countries — guided us through a multisensory history of the spirit.
On top of a thorough presentation covering the 1700s through today, our tasting included nine tastes. Three cocktails, were presented three ways using three base Rutte spirits as interpreted by three skilled bartenders: Laura Schacht, Keli Rivers, and Simon Difford.
For each cocktail — Martinez, Gin Cocktail, and Turf Club — the cup on the left represents the earliest known recipe, and was made with Rutte 1700 Genever (their interpretation of earliest genevers), the rightmost cup is a modern interpretation with Rutte Old Simon Genever, and the middle cup hovers in between with a Rutte Old Tom Gin base.
Side-by-side comparisons are a tactile education. This particular approach offered room for tremendous variety and showcased not only cocktail history but creativity.
#4 : Deep Eddy Vodka’s Rebel Rebel Ruby Red
Event: Mix with Music Brunch presented by Deep Eddy Vodka
The party sucked me in, as if by osmosis, on my way to hunt down the free coffee bar. Never got near the coffee but I did get up close and personal with this beauty, which helped me understand that I am a sucker for effectively wielded citrus.
Rebel Rebel Ruby Red
2oz Deep Eddy Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka
3oz guava nectar
1oz vanilla grapefruit shrub
.5oz lime juice
1oz vanilla syrup
6oz Topo Chico sparkling water
Combine vodka, guava, lime, and vanilla syrup and shake. Pour over ice and top with shrub and sparkling water. Garnish with mint and candied fruit slices.
#5 Michael Callahan’s Yi Jer
Seminar: Shake Outside the Box: Avant-Garde Cocktails
Decidedly not vegetarian, decidedly avant garde: Angostura 5-year rum, Bird’s Nest ginger syrup, chicken essence, lime, mint, Angostura, and bubbly, served over ice in a pill bottle.
A fine way to take my morning medicine, and a clever way to shake up our expectations of seminar cocktails (which were otherwise served in standard branded tasting cups).
The Walker Inn’s Malibu with edible sand. The Penedes Flavours by Giacomo Gianotti, rosemary-smoked in a small chest and served in a seashell. The Jitterbug Perfume at Cure. Green Chartreuse V.E.P. served neat.