I’m gingerly unfolding crinkled notes about gin drinks, pouring through hand-written thoughts. What makes the most imaginative bartender these days? Bombay Sapphire’s annual competition, the global search for the most imaginative bartender, wants to inspire the creativity that great drinks are made of.
For eight bartenders last week, that meant a select group of judges showing up at your bar and testing your artistic Bombay Sapphire cocktail, sipping and scoring to determine who gets to compete in this weekend’s competition in Honolulu. My gig as a judge left me privy to some of the most creative gin endeavors on the island.
At Four Seasons Wailea, for instance, Chris Nevins’s “On Cue” imbued fresh rosemary into local grapefruit, then added an elegant touch of jasmine liqueur for a crisp summer cocktail. Or Lexi Carlson from Flatbread in Paia, who created the “Honey Girl,” which sounds sweet but it had a kick lent to the drink from local chili pepper. Carlson wove chili skins and lemon peel into a rose garnish perched on a chilled martini glass rimmed with sugar, salt and honey infused with chili pepper. Later that day, Matt Wilburn demonstrated his La Culona, a strawberry basil Bombay Sapphire drink topped with Cock & Bull, poured at the Kahului Ale House.
Some cocktails had a bounty of Maui fruits like Tom Reyes’ (Fleetwood’s, Lahaina) Hayden Mango foam topped cocktail with local lychee, Meyer lemon and grapefruit. The drink, called the “Summer Sour,” is served in a tall Collins glass with a few dashes of Peychaud bitters. Cane and Canoe’s Mitch Cortus gave us an innovative Bombay Sapphire and rose of pinot noir, called the “Rose Garden.” And his colleague Matthew Corbin offered a Star of India champagne inspired drink–the “Cabochon.” Corbin chilled and charged watermelon and Tahitian lime juice bonded with agar and strained them to form a clear liquid, then poured them like a rose champagne. Nik Saucey’s “U Turn” at the Mill House had a cucumber ice cube to keep the saffron and lemongrass muddled gin cooled.
“Imagination has long been at the heart of the Bombay Sapphire story, from artisan distillation, the careful selection of the 10 exotic botanical, to the inspired blue bottle,” states Bombay’s website. And what botanicals: this gin touts Tuscany juniper berries, grains of paradise, lemon peel, orris root, almond, angelica, coriander, cubeb, cassia and liquorice.
Aaron Alcala-Mosley from Cow Pig Bun in Kihei took several of those and created a spiced Lassi, a summer yogurt drink traditionally made in India. From this he created his Stamos Fizz, a take on the Ramos Gin Fizz. It’s a frothy spritzed cocktail that employed aggressive shaking and special tonic water. It was this precision drink, garnished with a whole star anise pod, that won Alcala-Mosley the spot to compete in Honolulu.
He will compete this Sunday at 3pm at the Republik in Honolulu, against six other bartenders from around Hawaii. Sunday’s winner will then head to the National Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender competition in Las Vegas in August.
Follow the action at Mostimaginativebartender.com.