Fifteen bartenders from Calgary and Edmonton came together inside the Bourbon Room at National on 10th to add their own creative twist to a Sidecar and to create an original cocktail using either Excellia tequila or G’Vine gin. Each competitor had a mere six minutes to shake up two different drinks while charming us with the story behind them (sporting old-school beards, bow-ties and vests added to the showmanship, but was not a requirement!). We then had to judge each competitor on their performance and the inspiration behind the drink, as well as the drink itself: appearance, smell and taste, balance, interplay of ingredients, and how well it highlighted the Merlet products (cognac and triple sec for the Sidecars).
I was nervous at first being on a panel with two cocktail aficionados who between them could likely create all the cocktail menus in Calgary, but after we compared notes half way through and I saw that we were on the same page when it came to scoring (e.g. we all liked the same drinks best), I became more confident in my palate.
In the end Jimmy Nguyen of Teatro won the competition and the grand prize — a trip to France — by presenting us with a perfectly balanced Sidecar enhanced by a citrus sugar rim on the glass and a lemon juice and grape tea foam set atop the drink.
Though I am a fan of the classic Sidecar, I have to say that sampling 15 different ones in a row was palate-puckering. It was a nice break to try the creative gin and tequila cocktails. My favourite was the Stone Cold Jane Austen by Edmonton bartender Evan Watson of Woodwork. It’s like a White Lady meets Corpse Reviver #2 (one of my favourite gin cocktails). The peppercorn-lemongrass simple syrup made this drink, in my opinion, and the peppercorn garnish was a beautiful finishing touch. Do try this at home.
Stone Cold Jane Austen
- 2 oz G’Vine Nousaison gin
- 3/4 oz lemon juice
- 1/2 oz Merlet Trois Citrus
- 1/2 oz pink peppercorn lemon grass simple syrup (sorry, no recipe)
- Egg white
- 3 dashes Black Pepper Bitters and cracked black peppercorns
- Garnish: Cracked pink and black peppercorns
- Glass: old fashioned
Method: Combine the first six ingredients in a chilled shaker tin, then place six black peppercorns in a mortar and pestle and break them into a coarse grind. Place a pinch of this grind into the shaker tin, then dry shake. Next, add ice and hard shake, then single strain into a chilled old fashioned glass. Muddle pink peppercorns and black peppercorns in the mortar and pestle, then use a pinch of the combined mixture to garnish.
— Recipe courtesy Evan Watson, Woodwork