Monday, January 25, 2010

Cognac Summit

What happens when you bring to Cognac dozens of bartenders from the US, UK, France, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic and environs, and turn them loose on recreating the major classic cocktails based on the French brandy? Yes, lots of late nights, lies being told, ego measuring, drinking (Cognac of course, but at day's end, as with winemakers and distillers all over the world, beer at the local bar), but also a concerted effort on the part of the gathered mixologists to bring those cocktails  into the 21st century.

The first bartender Cognac Summit, as it’s grandly called, two years ago yielded a drink of the same name. This year, the challenge was to drag the Side Car, Mint Julep, Cognac Sour/Collins, Stinger, Mojito #3, Alexander and the Blue Blazer into the 21st century. Split into working groups, the bartenders and journalists were assigned by lot; my table was charged with creating a Stinger suitable for the modern palate. When others asked me what my table ended up with, I simply made a sad clown face - to a person, they smiled and said "Stinger?"

The gloom from being selected for the mixological equivalent of parking cars at the drag race made our team start slow, but gradually we  figured out the best route – reduce the sugar, increase the potency, incorporate acid, manage mint – and final result was a surprisingly drinkable after-dinner drink, one I’d serve confidently to any guest looking for a minty after-dinner quaff. The folks in Cognac are expected to release recipes shortly, and I'll post ours soon.

After a day or so of multilingual brainstorming, recipe fiddling, even a few personality fender benders, the new versions of the seven drinks –  – were presented to the local and international press. Best moment: the intro by spirits and wine maven Doug Frost, Southern Wine and Spirits’ Francesco Lafranconi, and Alperin of their “Pimp My Julep.” As soon as the video emerges from the censors, I’ll post, but be sure they rocked the house.

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