It was hot in the Seventy7 Lounge in Culver City that day. Maybe it was the blazing sun outside or the close quarters inside, filled with contestents and onlookers. Maybe it was the absinthe. Maybe it was the goat. I can’t say for sure.
It’s been a few weeks since we — Drinkhacker and Hood River Distillers, the importer of Lucid Absinthe — asked L.A. bartenders to come up with new cocktails that showcased absinthe in a fresh and exciting way. As we saw in Austin earlier this year, “absinthe forward” turned out a ton of variations, from tiki drinks to glowing-green refreshers.
A week ago Lucid narrowed down the finalists to 11, and all were on hand last Monday to prepare their cocktails and submit them for judging.
Our big winner: Austin Doner, GM of the Seventy7, whose Chai Tea of the High Seas brought back fond memories of a similarly-inspired libation, Chris Morris’s Sogni D’Oro from Austin. A truly delightful spin on chai, the cocktail is at once unusual and beautifully balanced. Here it is:
Chai Tea of the High Seas
1 oz Vanilla Chai black tea infused Lucid Absinthe
3/4 oz Zaya 12yr dark rum
3/4 oz whole milk
1/2 oz R. JelÍnek Amaro
1/2 oz Wildflower honey water
1 dash Angostura Orange bitters
Served shaken, up, with cinnamon dust on top
That’s a cool $1000 for Austin, and our fan favorite from Danny Natali earned $500. That prize was selected by the attendees, and the roar of the crowd when Danny won the prize is something I’ll never forget. Here’s his cocktail, a spin on a Trinidad Sour that uses, gulp, a whole ounce of Angostura bitters in the mix. You’d never know — and this was one of my personal favorites of the day.
Dry shake, then shake with ice. Served up.
And boy was it hard to pick a winner. The judges voted for nearly all 11 of the contestants, and the debate was intense. Some of my own personal picks included this bunch of bevs:
My Blue Heaven
from Christopher Barragan
1 1/2 oz Maison Rouge VSOP Cognac
1/2 oz Rothman Winter Creme de Violette
1/2 oz Lucid Absinthe
1/2 oz Blueberry Gomme Syrup
1/2 oz Meyer Lemon Juice
Garnished with three Blueberries and a zest of Meyer Lemon (discarded)
Blueberry Gomme Syrup is a homemade syrup with Farmers Market fresh blueberries, sugar and Gum Arabic. Shake with ice and serve in a coupe.
Lune Du Miel
from Adam George Fournier
.5 oz Lucid Absinthe
1 oz Bar Hill Tom Cat Barrel Aged Gin
.5 oz Honey Syrup (3:1 honey to water)
.25 oz unsweetened coconut cream (like Thai Kitchen Coconut Cream)
.25 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 bar spoon organic matcha (green tea) powder
1 egg white
Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker. Dry shake without ice. Add ice and shake hard. Strain into a Nick and Nora glass. Sprinkle mukhwas (Indian spiced fennel candy) on the top for garnish.
Two of these and you’re done for the night…
from Reid Joseph
1 oz Ardbeg 10 Years Old scotch
.75 oz Green Chartreuse
.66 oz Letherbee Fernet
.5 oz Lucid Absinthe
.25 oz raw sugar simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir with cracked ice for approximately 30 seconds, strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with lemon zest & bruised rosemary sprig.
I would say that things got weird once this next contestant made his drink… but he was first, so I guess things got weird immediately. Not only is the syrup in the drink made with goat brains, but a live goat was brought into the bar as a sort of unofficial mascot. Probably one you won’t be trying at home.
Shaken, served up.
How about some straight-up tiki?
Head Shop Yard Sale
from Michael Whiteley
.75oz Coconut Chai infused Four Roses Bourbon
.75oz Leblon Cachaca
.5oz Zaya rum
.5oz Lucid Absinthe
.5oz Liquid Alchemist Orgeat Syrup
.5oz Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
1oz Passion Fruit Juice
2 Dash Angostura Bitters
Whip all ingredients with one ice cube and pour into a Pilsner glass, fill with crushed ice. Garnish with large mint bouquet and a garnish pick with a raspberry, blackberry and orange slice.
Tiki drinks made with gin aren’t terribly common, but this entry worked really well.
Shake and fine strain into a coupe, garnish with a star anise.
Good Housekeeping’s Lauren Pool was our only female finalist, and her drink was sure enough the most feminine of the bunch.
None of Your Hibiscus
from Lauren Pool
1 oz Lucid Absinthe infused with toasted almonds and hibiscus flowers
1 egg white
3/4 oz grapefruit juice
3/4 oz honey
1/2 oz Kerns guava soda
2 dashes Rhubarb bitters
Shaken, served up. Garnish with a hibiscus flower.
from Sherwood Souzankari
1.25 oz Lucid Absinthe
.75 oz pineapple juice
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz dry white rum
.5 oz Demerara rum
.25 oz Simple Syrup
muddled cucumber skins + 1 slice
Garnish: Cucumber skins + cucumber ribbon
Muddle cucumber and add other ingredients. Shake, fine strain, serve over fresh ice in a Collins glass.
And finally, every cocktail competition needs a true wild card. This one is it, inspired by the bubbling green acid pools found in cartoons and comic books.
The Acid Bath
from Alex Hoyt-Heydon
.5 oz Lucid Absinthe
1.5 oz Absolute Vanilla Vodka
.5 oz Green Creme de Menthe
.5 oz Small Hands Foods Pineapple Gum Syrup
.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
2 dashes Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
Garnish: Swath of Lemon Peel
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, and shake with ice. Double strain and carbonate with either a Soda Stream or iSi siphon. Serve in a champagne flute neat or over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a swath of lemon peel.
Thanks to all of our competitors and to my co-judge Jason Horn. That’s it for the 2017 Lucid Cocktail Classique. Hope to see you all again in 2018!
All photos courtesy Eugene Shoots.