The entries are then shortlisted, one winner from each state competes in the National Final. At the Finals, the Australian winner is chosen to represent Australia in the International competitions with some of the 'cream of the bartending elite from across the globe.
You may have read about the first round of the competition which was the 'Sangrita Ritual'. A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to check out the winning entries from the three top placing bartenders in that round- and last week I was even luckier to be invited back to sample round two's winning creation - Seasonal cocktails! Is this basically G.G.'s dream come true, I hear you ask?!
"Round two is devoted to finding the Best Seasonal Cocktail, with bartenders being tasked to use only the freshest produce and seasonal ingredients from around the country. Australia’s most influential mixologists have come up with some amazing creations that are sure to freshen the palate and stimulate the senses.
Assessed on appearance, experience, taste and how well seasonal produce was utilised in their creations, only three winners were chosen."
So, whilst I felt I was floundering when heading to the last evening i.e. not very well educated on the Sangrita Ritual when I arrived (I knew a lot more when I left, mind you!), I felt a lot more confident going to the cocktail evening. I'm pretty sure I knew a lot more about a great seasonal cocktail and could identify with why the winners were chosen. After all, I have had enough practice drinking cocktails!
Last Thursday evening, a couple of other bloggers and writers and I (along with our guests) met with Adam Brewer, who was the National winner of last year's competition and who you may remember as being one of the winners of the Sangrita Ritual Round. Adam is also doing some work for Diageo Reserve Brands now, and as Jay, the Brand Ambassador (who took us on the Sangrita Ritual tour) was out of Brisbane, Adam stepped into his place to take us on the tour this time.
First stop was at Canvas bar Woolloongabba to check out Marco Nunes 3rd place creation. Marco was also a place getter in the Sangrita Ritual Round so he obviously is knocking up some pretty cool creations and this one was no exception. For the summer cocktail, Marco was inspired by juniper berries - an ingredient that are starting to make a name for themselves here in Oz, but were a lot more popular in Marco's French homeland.
For Marco, the cocktail, was about not only the flavour, but the scents and visual presentation too. Using Tanqueray 10 (which I might add, all three bartenders used and gushed about how awesome it is) Marco created the 'Mucha and Juniper'- a smooth, dry floral drink - with a sphere of white grapefruit and juniper flavoured ice in the middle. This was like nothing any of us had ever tasted. As one of the writers picked up, it was almost smoky, and I could have sipped on about 5 of these and not become sick of the complex flavours. The ice sphere screamed summer and whirling it around helped to dissolve into the delicious liquid, adding to the whole effect. Definitely an awesome drink, but not something you could recreate at home due to the amount of steps involved. I'm not sure whether Canvas have this one on the menu but if they do, go and get one- they are super lovely.
Second stop: We stepped into the darkened doorway of LaRuche to meet with second place winner Tara Steele. Having sneaked a little peek at the photos of the final before hand, I was pretty excited to taste Tara's tipple. I knew that it was served with scones- and in little jam jars. I was intrigued.
Tara wanted something that was easy to recreate- because that's what makes a classic cocktail. She also wanted something that personified her - lemons because she loves them and they are summery and fresh, rosemary because she has a big rosemary bush out the front of her house, and peaches- because she makes beautiful jams and wanted some nice stone fruit to compliment the cocktail. That's right- she made the accompanying peach jam. What a fabulous idea. Talented girl. Nothing can go wrong when baked goods and cocktails combine. Basically Tara surmised that "everybody knows Brisbane sucks in the summer and all they want to do is get out" so the cocktail named the 'Devonshire Gin Jam' was almost as escapism cocktail. Something to make you feel like you were out on a field somewhere having a beautiful summer picnic.
The drink was just gorgeous, served in little jam jars with some red checked cloth on top- reminiscent a proper jar of jam from days gone by. The cocktail was very moresish, maybe dangerously so! A little bit tart and a lot of delish, the gin and lemon are an old school winning match, but the rosemary added some individual style. Tara put a lot of thought into her cocktail and I think the feel she wanted to create really worked, It managed to take us away to a summer field, even though we were really in the dim and dark alice in wonderland esque land that is LaRuche.
A short walk down the road, and we ended up at new Brisbane bar - Kerbside, to check out Bar tender Chris Denman's winning cocktail formula - the aptly named Aristocrat's Punch. This punch is rid of the traditional but terrible lemonade, tinned juice and ginger ale style mix- and replaced with something a little more worthy of an Aristocrat's attention. Chris took his inspiration from the sharing of gorgeous drinks when friends and family gather over the summer. In his words "It's all about getting the people together".
Punch is apparently known to pre-date cocktails by a long time- and Chris was really passionate about making sure the punch wasn't too sweet like the more well known versions, but was the perfect punchy share drink (which is now avilable on Kerbside's menu). He did a fabulous job- the other girls and I tucked into the punch with glee, ridding ourselves of the kitsch memories that punch usually conjures up. Housemade cherry and chamomile bitters, agave nectar and Tanqueray 10 are some of the defining flavours that help to make the punch so spesh. Sitting back on the cool swing chair at kerbside was a lovely relaxing end to a very information packed evening.
I'm seriously in love Brisbane's bar scene. We have some really cool people, making really cool concoctions, and it's nice that World Class are showcasing the talent. The new bars popping up all over the place (all three venues we visited have opened within the last 18 months or so) are really making a splash and giving Brisbanites a diverse array of cool places to go and try new things. I also like that the focus is not so much on the amount of alcohol, but the quality of the product like Tanqueray 10- which really is a freaking awesome drink. It's pretty much a secret that only a couple of years ago, I didn't really like Gin and Tonic. I'm sure this was beacuse I was drinking house gin, and it just didn't sit well with me. Fast forward two years and G and T's are my drink of choice. I consume them at an alarming rate and can't imagine a nicer summer drink. I love the fact that life as a food blogger has opened me up to so many new products and ways of doing things- improving the quality of my knowledge- and in turn drinking better alcoholic beverages (which is definitely a bonus!). I'm excited to see what Brisbane's finest mixologists come up with for the next round, which is the Gentleman's Cocktail round. Did someone say Whiskey?
World Class http://www.weareworldclass.com/
G.G and her guest attended the evening courtesy of Splendid Communications and Diageo Reserve Brands. Photos are coutesy of World Class Raising the Bar competition.