Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Academy of Spirits, The Big Finale

Yesterday was the big day. We had to present our original cocktails for judging and take a written 100-question final exam.

There were 12 drinks presented in total, using a wide variety of ingredients and garnishes. We were judged on technique (just the "lite" version, not nearly as tough as a true USBG competition), and then a sequestered panel of judges rated the drinks based on appearance, aroma and taste.

Just as a refresher, here was my entry:

Harvest Moon (for a 6.5 oz tall glass)
1½ oz Knob Creek Bourbon

1 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
½ oz Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice
Dash of Peach Bitters
Club Soda

Shake bourbon, liqueur, juice and bitters together, strain into ice-filled tall glass. Top up with club soda. Garnish with an orange wheel and flower (my actual garnish had a purple flower, but I couldn't find any of them near my house and I wasn't able to get a photo during the competition).

So how did I do?
Well, I didn't place in the top three. However, word on the street is that I came in fourth place. I feel pretty good about that, given that I've never been professionally behind the bar and most of my classmates make beverages professionally every day.

The top spot went to Angie Jackson of Ultimate Elixirs. Congrats Angie! The prize for winning? Angie gets to showcase her talents and her drink at graduation.
Her cocktail looked fantastic, and I am looking forward to tasting one at our graduation ceremony next week.

I am certain that I got at least a 75% on the final (I am always a bit of an overachiever on tests), so I am looking forward to graduation. This has been a great learning experience and I've made some great new friends along the way.

Random Trivia Bits
Here are a few of the interesting tidbits I learned while studying for the final, just for fun.
  • Drinks should be built in the glass half of a Boston Shaker so that you (and the customer) can see what's happening and you can measure by sight.
  • USBG rules stipulate that you should pour the least expensive ingredients first, working your way toward the most expensive. That way, if you make a mistake along the way, you can minimize the cost of rebuilding the drink.
  • It is rude to point your shaker toward a judge in competition, you should always shake to the side. As one of our judges, Debbie Peek from the Drawing Room pointed out, if you should ever have an accident, the drink would spill right onto the judge if you point it at him/her (ouch!).
  • Cognac producers add caramel coloring to their products, its just part of the production process for most if not all of them.
  • A frozen mug is about the worst thing you can do to a beer, it will cause some of the beer to freeze and the beer won't be at its best temperature. Use a chilled mug, but not a frozen one, for a cold one.
To learn more about this class and to sign up for the next term, visit the Illinois Chapter of the USBG and click on "Membership." The class runs every few months, and they rotate between downtown Chicago and Bolingbrook.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sonya for reporting on the Academy. I will share your blog with my friends. Also, it has been a pleasure to know you and I look forward to working with you in the New Year!