In the world of bartenders, more than any other niche of the service industry, competitions are a regular occurrence.
There are competitions hosted in front of thousands to see who can best "Shake It Up!" at the annual Nightclub and Bar Show in Las Vegas. There are competitions staged in New Orleans in the middle of July for which bartenders sport matching outfits and serve hundreds of cocktails to bikini-clad tourists. And for the past handful of years, there is a competition sponsored by EFFEN vodka that challenges teams of bartenders to produce a drink on the spot using ingredients they may or may not have ever worked with prior.
Part "Top Chef," part "Supermarket Sweep," EFFEN's third sort-of-annual Art of Design competition took place Wednesday at the Hard Rock Hotel. As one of the judges, I was charged with paying particularly close attention to the cocktails resulting from two strangers putting their heads together for 20 minutes to earn $500 each and the reigning title of EFFEN Art of Design winners.
There were some good drinks; there were some bad drinks. But the judges' favorite, which also won the popular vote that night, was one that happened by accident.
Dubbed the EFFEN Abstract, the drink was created by The Underground's Orlando DeLeon and the Chicago South Loop Hotel's Josh Davis, who were strangers prior to being randomly paired as a team. Using EFFEN Black Cherry vodka as the base, DeLeon and Davis worked with the only ingredients they could score--none of which was their first choice: Thatcher's Organic Apple Spice Ginger Liqueur, Godiva White Chocolate liqueur, limes, egg white, thyme and red pepper.
On paper, it sounds pretty disgusting. But for whatever reason, it worked. Wonderfully.
Below is the recipe for the Abstract, should you long for a cocktail this weekend made from unconventional items in your fridge and home bar. As DeLeon and Davis proved with their odd pairing of flavors, one should never judge a book by its cover, or a cocktail by its ingredients.
* 2 ounces EFFEN Black Cherry vodka
* 2 lime wedges
* 1 ounce red pepper-infused simple syrup (see recipe)
* 1/2 ounce Thatcher's Organic Apple Spice Ginger Liqueur
* 1/2 ounce Godiva White Chocolate liqueur
* 1/4 ounce egg white
* thyme, for garnish
In a mixing glass, muddle limes. Add EFFEN Black Cherry, red pepper-infused simple syrup, Thatcher’s Apple Spice Ginger, egg white and Godiva White Chocolate liqueur. Add ice, seal with a Boston shaker and shake. Strain and pour into a cocktail glass; garnish with thyme.
To make red pepper-infused simple syrup: Combine equal parts water and sugar in a sealable jar; seal and shake hard to dissolve sugar. Cut one red pepper into slices and add to simple syrup. Let stand as long as you wish. (DeLeon's and Davis's simple syrup only steeped for a half-hour or so before judging and its flavor was already apparent.)