Imagine this - you have 5 minutes to create an original cocktail that tastes, smells and looks good. You have to choose your ingredients from a table of fruits and vegetables that you've only just seen, and you have to produce five servings of the drink, including garnish, in that 5-minute period.
For the eleven competitors at the latest Chicago Iron Bartender challenge, that was the scene they encountered on Tuesday night. Early on in the planning for this event, I decided I wasn't quite ready to compete myself, so I volunteered to help out. Plus I wanted to write about it and cheer on the competitors (which include Charles Joly, pictured, as well as Tim Lacey and Peter Vestinos, along with 8 other fantastic mixologists I haven't yet profiled).
The only two required ingredients were the evening's sponsoring products, Cabana Cachaça and Funkin fruit purees. A word of warning, while Cabana is a nice, robust cachaça, and they generously sponsored Tuesday's events, you should be aware that their new website & advertisements are borderline soft-core porn. I can't help but think they will get a complaint to DISCUS for violating the liquor industry's guidelines about using sexuality to sell products if they haven't already. They certainly stirred up some controversy in the ad world with it.
There were five folks on the judge's panel (pictured at left, with our charming host for the evening, Serafin Alvarado), including Matti Anttila, the creator of Cabana, David Tamarkin from Time Out Chicago, two senior people from CHIC and Chef Randy Zweiban. They faced a tough decision - the drinks were all very creative, and ranged widely in terms of flavor, texture and aroma. And none of them resembled a caipirinha.
Many of the drinks were very good (luckily the audience gets to taste them too), the scores must have been close. In the end, three women competitors took the top three spots!
Congratulations to Jennifer Contraveos from La Madia, who won first place and a trip to Rio to compete in an international cocktail competition in November (compliments of Cabana), and also to Debbie Peek from Team Enterprises and Bernette Baker from Applebee's (yes, Applebee's! I might have to find out which one and actually go there, for a cocktail!).
And please excuse the quality of the photos in this post, due to an unfortunate oversight (namely, a memory card), I was left to take photos with my phone instead of my digital camera.