De Kuyper Mix Master contest: Free cocktails tonight
I'm a big-time fan of reality competition shows like Top Chef and Project Runway, so when I was asked to judge a Chicago cocktail competition, I jumped at the chance. Admittedly, there were no TV cameras rolling at the first De Kuyper Mix Master semi-final challenge last week at Griffin Lounge, but it didn't take long for me to start wondering which type of judge I was going to be. Would I be like Toby Young: "These look like bull testicles!" or Padma Lakshmi: "I've had bull testicles!" Or maybe I'd be like Heidi Klum, delivering scathing comments like, "Your cocktail was a joke, but we were not amused," in a sexy German accent and clothes so chic the mixologists would forget I was browbeating their work. Turns out, I was probably a little more like Gail Simmons—critical and complimentary, but not forceful enough to really persuade the other judges to my way of thinking. As a result, the $500 winner was the Stiletto Pear, a blend of ginger and hazelnut liqueurs and pear vodka created by Sepia mixologist Joshua Pearson. It's a tasty enough cocktail that grew on me the more I drank, but the drink I went back for seconds on, coincidentally, took second place. Charles Joly of Drawing Room wowed us with his presentation while mixing up his "Up & At 'Em" blend of De Kuyper Ginger, Maker's Mark and lemon juice. The result was a refreshing, citrusy drink that women would love, but men (like my two fellow judges) might only tolerate.
With a little experience under my belt, I plan to be more forceful, critical and fun at tonight's second semi-final from 8–11pm at Martini Park (151 W Erie St). The winner of tonight's event will face Pearson in the finals Oct. 13, 7–10pm at Howl at the Moon. The winner of that event heads to New Orleans for a national mix-off. Cocktails are free at the Howl at the Moon event and at tonight's mix-off, so come out, have a sip and be sure to say hi. I'll be the judge in the corner telling the bartenders that three of them will be in, but the rest of them will be "OUT"! Find cocktail recipes from the Griffin Lounge event after the jump.
Voulez by Todd Appel - Crimson Lounge
1.5 oz De Kuyper Hazelnut Bliss
1.5 oz VSOP Cognac
1 oz cream or half and half
Shake hard...strain into chilled coupe or other cocktail glass. Dusting of nutmeg.
Stiletto Pear by Joshua Pearson - Sepia
2.5oz pear vodka
3/4oz De Kuyper Ginger
1/2oz De Kuyper Hazelnut Bliss
Shake and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with microplaned ginger and dried pear slice.
Tropical Daisy by Brad Bolt - Bar Deville
1.5 oz Cruzan aged rum
0.75 oz De Kuyper tropical pineapple
0.75 oz fresh lime juice
3 strawberries, quartered (1 for garnish)
Build all liquid ingredients and 2 quartered strawberries in a shaker. Add ice and shake hard. Strain into an ice filled rocks glass and garnish with 1 quartered strawberry.
Strawberry Fields by Josh Winders - Angels and Kings
1.5oz. De Kuyper Strawberry Patch Schnapps
2oz. pink lemonade
Add ingredients into an ice filled shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with fresh strawberry slice.
Up & At 'Em! by Charles Joly - Three Headed (Drawing Room)
3/4 oz De Kuyper Ginger
1 1/4 oz Maker's Mark
1/2 lemon juice
Combine all ingredient in mixing glass. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.