Alba Huerta and Cedomil Slokar took home first and second place at last night's On The Rocks cocktail competition, scoring at $1,000 check for Huerta and a double victory for Grand Prize Bar. Both Huerta and Slokar work for Grand Prize, and the bar was given two spots out of six at the competition.
Working my way around the room with my fellow judges last night, I asked Slokar how the bar had managed to get two of the coveted spots. He merely replied with a grin, "It's because we're badasses," before getting back to work on his cocktail, a Two-Tone El Camino.
The cocktail was one of six being judged at the first annual cocktail competition, which served as this year's kick-off for Sugar Land's yearly Grand Wine and Food Affair. Bars from Houston and Austin had entered their recipes for the competition, in which they had to come up with a creative cocktail that showcased this year's featured spirit -- AGV 400 Blanco Tequila -- but only six were chosen for the final stage of the competition.
It was almost a given, then, that Huerta's Mexican-inspired recipe -- the Copa de Maya -- would be the winner.
"I thought about Mayahuel and how she fed her 400 rabbit-children from her breasts," Huerta explained to the judges. "And what she fed them was honey, and it was intoxicating." Fittingly, her cocktail contained a honey mixture that she'd cooked up herself, featuring jasmine and green tea among the ingredients. Shaken with egg white and the AGV 400 Blanco Tequila -- which is named, in part, for the goddess Mayahuel -- it created a soft, sweet and creamy cocktail that needed no garnish save the brilliant white foam that floated on top.
"This is easily my favorite," fellow judge Joe Abuso whispered to me as we reveled in the drink. Amongst all the fruit-based cocktails and swizzles, it stood out head and shoulders for its creativity and taste, not to mention the amount of shaking it took Huerta to make the drink itself.
"I think Huerta is the only bartender brave enough to feature an egg-based drink," joked host David Alan, better known as the Tipsy Texan, as he announced each entry to the assembled crowd at M Lounge.
Other entrants in the contest were Mindy Kucan from Anvil Bar & Refuge; Benjamin Craven from Perla's Austin; Justin Burrow from Haven; and Joe Wellborn from Azuma on the Lake, right down the street in Sugar Land, who brought an army of supporters, friends and family along with him.
They hooted and hollered while Wellborn shook his drink, the Red Dragon Rita, which featured spicy sambal sauce along with kumquat syrup and Combier orange liqueur. The judges all agreed that while the drink was delicious, it was too spicy to be considered well-balanced or to be ordered more than once. However, Wellborn's support from his friends earned him the People's Choice vote and therefore third place overall.
Justin Burrow, meanwhile, crafted a clever tiki-style drink -- the Santa Maria Swizzle -- that featured the AGV 400 Blanco Tequila in place of rum. It paired stunningly well with the Velvet Falernum, orange and Angostura bitters, leading one judge to remark that he would never have expected a tequila tiki drink to be so successful. It was our choice for third place, behind Slokar's Two-Tone El Camino by a hair.
And just what made that El Camino two-toned? The shot of Fernet Branca that Slokar poured on top. With black peppercorn-lavender simple syrup mixed in along with the tequila, it made for a surprisingly light and imminently drinkable cocktail with a nice herbal finish.
It just goes to show you can't ever go wrong with a shot of Fernet.
For all the photos from the tequila-fueled evening, check out our slideshow.
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