Don Q Rum Mixologist Competition

April 07 2011 - 9:18 AM

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On Sunday evening, 14 of Chicago's top mixologists competed in the Don Q Rum Ultimate Mixoff Challenge.

The contestants competed in two categories: fancy spirited cocktails and fruit forward long drinks. Each drink needed to contain at least one Don Q rum product. A winner was chosen from each category. The victors are awarded an all-expense-paid trip to the national competition in Manhattan.

This was just one of many contests that the mixologists compete in throughout the year. The competitions are in partnership with the United States Bartenders’ Guild.


"This is competition season," Andy Kaminskas, Don Q representative, explained.

The event was held at WaterShed, located below Pops for Champagne on State Street. WaterShed is a quaint, cozy bar that serves up custom cocktails in an old school setting. The family room atmosphere created a great back drop for the event.

The competition began with the fruit forward category. According to the USBG, "mixologists must emphasize seasonal ingredients in a rum drink and its garnish. The drinks are judged on technique, creativity, flavor and visual effect."

My top picks were Revae Schneider's Herbal Healing and Lynn House's Bi Polar.

100_0067Revae is a mixologist for the new restaurant, Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar opening up in River North in May 2011. Her drink, Herbal Healing, consisted of the following:

1 oz Don Q Anjeo, .5 oz. Don Q Platino, .5 oz. Green Chartreuse, .5 oz. lime, .5 oz Royal Combier, .5 oz Black Currant concentrate, .25 oz Agave Amber, Thai basil, and an orange flower water glass rinse.

This drink was refreshing and I would pair with a sushi dish.

Lynn, the winner of the fruit forward category, is a mixologist at Blackbird in the West Loop. Lynn's drink, Bi Polar, consisted of the following:

2 oz. Don Q Anjeo, 6 drops of North Shore Selene, 6 drops of Green Chartreuse, 1 oz of fresh lime juice, 1 oz. of passion fruit puree, 1 oz. of strawberry puree, 1 oz. rock candy syrup, and 3 drops of rose water.100_0060

Combine 1 oz. Don Q Anejo, passion fruit puree, North Shore Selene, .5 oz. lime juice, .5 oz. rock candy syrup, add ice and shake.

Next, combine 1 oz. Don Q Anejo , strawberry puree, Green Chartreuse, .5 oz. lime juice, .5 oz. rock candy syrup, and 3 drops rose water, add ice and shake.

Fill a collins glass with crushed ice, strain passion fruit mixture on top, top with strawberry mixture. Garnish with blooming strawberry.

The puree gave this drink a satisfying smoothness, and the combination of the flavors resulted in a deliciously fruity summer drink.

For the next category, fancy spirited cocktails, the USBG requires "each mixologist to showcase a ‘signature ingredient’ such as: home-made bitters, foams and the like. This cocktail is judged primarily on creativity, technique, seasonality and visual appearance."

My top pick was Leanne Strickler's La Dulcinea Negra. Leanne is currently an independent mixologist. She competes in many competitions throughout the year, but she was pleased with the atmosphere and guidelines for this particular event.

"I love to make homemade ingredients for my drinks," Leanne said.

The La Dulcinea Negra consisted of the following:

100_0077 1.5 oz. Don Q Anejo, .5 oz. Cocoa Cinnamon Yerba Mate liqueur (made with Don Q gold), .5 oz. Mathilde creme de cassis, 5-6 muddled blackberries, and 1 oz. lemon juice.

Muddle blackberries, creme de cassis, and yerba mate liqueur. Add remaining ingredients and shake.  Strain into an iced collins glass and top with ginger beer. Stir gently. Garnish with cinnamon/blackberry skewer.

The sweetness of the blackberries mixed with the yerba mate liqueur gave the drink a heavy finish. This is paired well with a steak.

The winner of this category was Josh Pearson with his drink, Strange Overtones. Josh works at Sepia in the West Loop.

His intricately prepared drink contained the following:

2 oz. Don Q Grand Anejo, 1 oz. Rhubarb Shurbb*, 3/4 oz. Gran Classico Bitters, a dash of Bittertruth Cajun Bitters.

Barrel age** ingredients for one month.100_0089

Serve decant 3.75 oz. of cocktail from barrel. Place in mixing glass and stir 30 times. Strain onto ice sphere in American rocks glass. Garnish with orange twist (discard peel) and place a rhubarb tuile*** on the glass.

*The rhubarb shrubb consisted of a caramelized cup of muscavado sugar, 1 cup lillet blanc, bring to a boil. Add 2 cups chopped rhubarb, 1 cup sherry vinegar, 1 cup raspberry vinegar, .5 cup strawberries, 1 teaspoon angelica root, .5 teaspoon angelica seeds, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 1 vanilla bean, 1/4 teaspoon crushed cardamom, 1 kaffir lime leaf, zest 1/2 lemon, zest 1/2 orange, pinch of cinnamon, and 4 rose petals. Boil for 10 minutes and strain. Still in 2 oz. of blood orange juice. Bottle and refrigerate.

**To prepare the barrel, wash a 1/2 gallon unused American Oak barrel with an off-dry Riesling. Place prepared cocktail in barrel and seal. Store in a cool, dark place for one month.

***The rhubarb tuile garnish consisted of mandolin rhubarb (finely shaved). Boil in simple syrup for 5 minutes. Place on a lined baking sheet. Blot with a paper towel. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes. Curl while still hot.

Josh's drink was unique and the intricate mix of ingredients was impressive. The combination of flavors came together well and would pair well with a heavier dish.

The art of mixology is extremely appealing and enjoyable to experience. There are also many other popular spots to try unique cocktails including Double A and The Drawing Room.

I would recommend checking out these restaurants and lounges and sampling some of these drinks!

–Ashley Streichert

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