One of the most delightful things that can happen in a cocktail competition is the starburst effect of creativity the audience and judges get to experience.
Propose a cocktail competition, set the basic rules, put the word out to the community, and some younger bartenders who want to make their rep, right along with some older and more established pros that just can’t resist the thrill of competition and opportunity to strut their stuff, will come up with ideas from every direction imaginable…and some you never imagined.
That’s what happened when Roca Patrón came to Portland recently. Patrón was introducing its new line of ‘artesanal’ tequila made the old-fashioned way by slow cooking the agave in ovens and then crushing them in a stone pit with a giant “tahona” stone pulping the sweet nectar from the piñas to extract richer, riper and more aromatic juice for fermentation and distillation. Working with the United States Bartenders Guild and the state chapter, the Oregon Bartenders Guild, eight recipes were selected from the many submissions, with some promising---and some surprising---ideas for the judges and audiences to consider.
One of those surprising ones came from Sarah Rehman (Twitter handle @12dollarladle) of La Taq Cantina who made an enticing fancy cocktail she dubbed the Dulce Brujeria. (For those not conversant in Spanish, that translates to “Sweet Witchcraft”, and it was.)
Sarah used two ounces of Roca Patrón Añejo tequila (which must be aged in barrels for a minimum of one year to earn that designation); ½ ounce Combier Pamplemousse Liqueur, a French spirit delicately flavored with macerated grapefruit; ½ ounce of Strega, a bewitching herbal liqueur from Italy (and the name Strega is Italian for ‘witch’, as bruja is the Spanish, so there’s a neat tie-in there); 1 bar spoon of light agave syrup; and 2 dashes of orange bitters.
She combined the tequila, liqueurs, bitters and agave in a mixing glass and stirred with ice,t hen strained the beautifully brash bright yellow drink into a chilled coupe glass.
For the final touch, Sarah carefully sprinkled tiny threads of pure saffron on the surface of the cocktail. The tiny distinctively red threads floated gently on the meniscus, and ever so slowly orange-reddish-yellow tendrils began to uncurl lazily into the yellow cockatil in slow motion effect. Be-witching, one might say.
The effect was enchanting, the play of colors was fascinating, the drink was flavorful and distinctive, clearly displaying the rich fruity flavor and floral notes of the tequila flirting with the grapefruit and herbal Strega and orange bitters. The inescapable knowledge that saffron is the single most expensive spice by weight in the world made a serious impression as well.
So mark one up for Sarah for a creative, imaginative and workable drink that made perfect use of the major spirit---the Roca Patrón Añejo---as well as the flavor components of the other ingredients, then adding an artistic flair to the whole thing with those threads of saffron spice.