To enter each bartender created a unique cocktail inspired by their vision of the latest cocktail trends.
Check out FIVE East Coast Finalists of the Bartenders Society Cocktail Competition, who will battle it out against FIVE West Coast Finalists (to be announced this week) this Friday, September 2, 2023 for a chance to win a trip to Paris!
My inspiration for my cocktail recipe was a combination of trends. Using vegetables and savory spices really enhances the spirits in a cocktail and it’s a trend that I see more often, and I hope it will continue. There’s some really beautiful flavor combinations using both fruits and vegetables or even just vegetables that make incredible cocktails! Vegetables also make terrific edible and beautiful garnishes. Savory flavors and spices also enhance so many spirits as well! More and more cocktails worldwide are being created using local ingredients from farmers markets. Using fresh local ingredients really makes a difference in a cocktail and we continue to see more bars and restaurants incorporating them into their bar programs. Supporting local farms is very important as well and I hope that we continue this trend. I usually name my cocktails after songs. My cocktail Love Train is named after the 70’s hit by The O’ Jay’s. The lyrics are especially prevalent for what’s going on in the world today. We all need to hop on board The Love Train!
- 2 oz St. James Imperial Blanc Rhum Agricole
- 1 oz Marie Brizard Pear William
- 3/4 oz lemon juice (save 1/4 oz for rim)
- 1/2 oz olive brine
- 3 dashes celery bitters
- 5 sugar snap peas (2 for garnish)
- 2 cherry tomato (for garnish)
- 1 green grape – garnish
- 1/2 tsp lemon pepper (rim)
Preparation: Dip half of coupe in 1/4 oz of lemon juice and then roll in lemon pepper to half rim the cocktail. Muddle 3 sugar snap peas in shaker. Add liquid ingredients and ice. Shake and strain into lemon pepper half rimmed coupe. Garnish with fruit and vegetable skewer: Skew one cherry tomato , one sugar snap pea, one green grape, one sugar snap pea and then one cherry tomato on a bamboo skewer.
In Baltimore, I am seeing a trend of bar guests who are interested in – even seeking out – spirit forward cocktails with few non-alcoholic “mixers.” In past years, I found it was more common for guests to order cocktails that hid the taste of the distilled spirits with juice, soda, and other flavors that diluted and masked the spirits. Now, I find more guests want to taste the base spirit (not have it covered up) and enjoy experiencing and discussing the interplay of various alcoholic ingredients. I created this cocktail using rhum agricole, watermelon liqueur, and blanc vermouth, along with Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe, and only a small dash of citrus and herbs. This approach highlights the base ingredients and demonstrates how even just small additions of bitters and other flavor agents can impact the overall taste and balance of a cocktail. I also created a cocktail with summer flavors as seasonal menus continue to be a trend in my region.
- 1 1/2 oz. St James Rhum Blanc Agricole 55°
- 1 oz. Marie Brizard Pastèque
- 3/4 oz. blanc vermouth
- 1/4 oz. lemon juice
- 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 8 leaves fresh mint
- Absinthe rinse
Preparation: Prepare glass by misting lightly with absinthe. Coarsely tear mint leaves and place in shaker tin with remaining ingredients and ice.Shake until well chilled, then double strain over an ice sphere.
La Belle Nuit
Flavor trends within the cocktail world pose an interesting question for which came first, their use in an elevated cocktail or their appearance in a mass-produced hard seltzer? Towards the end of 2021, I was hearing that two flavors were going to be very popular in 2022 – Yuzu and Passion Fruit. Sure enough, shortly after the ball dropped in Times Square, I began to see a variety of ready-to-drink options, beers, and flavored seltzers start to feature both Yuzu and Passion Fruit. This flavor trend exploded in my area with many locally produced hard seltzers featuring spring and summer releases with those flavors. My cocktail, La Belle Nuit, featuring Sant James Rhum Paille, with its wonderful profile of honey, dried fruit and vanilla, beautifully setting off the Marie Brizard Yuzu and the hints of passion fruit, is a natural progression of those trending flavors. My bar guests have already been introduced to the exotic Yuzu and Passion Fruit, through a very approachable manor. But now these flavors are no longer part of the mysterious unknown. My guests are confident in ordering a cocktail containing these flavors, and it’s my pleasure to introduce them to a bolder take on them. A deep, rich, cocktail, with layers of flavor, perfect for sipping on a beautiful a night.
- 1 1/2 oz Saint James Rhum Paille
- 3/4 Marie Brizard Liqueur Mûre
- 1/2 oz Marie Brizard Liqueur Yuzu
- 1 1/2 oz Passion Fruit-Ginger Green Tea*
- 3-4 dashes Lemon Bitters
Preparation: In a shaker tin, combine Saint James Rhum Paille, Marie Brizard Mûre and Yuzu, Green Tea, and Lemon Bitters. Add one large ice cube and shake hard for 18-20 seconds. Double strain through a fine mesh strainer into a cordial glass. Garnish with a fresh Blackberry and edible glitter. *Passion Fruit-Ginger Green Tea: Ingredients: 5 grams (1tbsp) Imperial Grade Dragon Pearl Green Tea, 2 tbsp Passion Fruit Pulp, fresh, 20 grams Ginger, grated, 6 oz Water, Preparation: While bringing water to a boil, in a heatproof container combine Tea, Passion Fruit and Ginger. Once water has boiled, remove from heat, and let cool for 1-2 minutes (water should be 170o). Pour water over Tea mixture and let it steep 4 minutes. Stir gently to fully incorporate Passion Fruit. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof container and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Shake gently before using if separation occurs.
Embrasse-moi sous le Pêcher (Kiss me under the Peach tree)
I believe that the latest trends are moving toward fresh and homemade ingredients and quickly leaving behind the processed products we’ve been using for the last decade. We are seeing the public become more educated and are more open to spirit forward flavor profiles. Instead of the overly sweet fruity cocktails, people are understanding the balance of a well-crafted cocktail. Flavor fusions are huge, that’s why I chose to use green tea and yuzu with the peach and apricot to create this playful rum punch. I also think bringing back techniques from the eras that cocktailing became an art form is heavily prevalent these days.
- 4oz strong brewed green tea
- 2oz Saint James Rhum Vieux
- 1 ½ oz Marie Brizard Apry Liqueur
- Juice from half a lemon
- 1 tsp of brown sugar
- 4oz of whole milk for clarifying
- 1 tsp peach yuzu puree*
Preparation: Mix all ingredients except the peach-yuzu puree and stir until brown sugar has dissolved. Pour into 4 oz of whole milk and stir to activate the clarification process. Let sit until separated completely and filter through the curds a few times until it filters clear.
Once you have clarified the cocktail, pour into a shaker with ice and add a teaspoon of the peach-yuzu puree, shake vigorously and strain into a 5 oz Martini.
*Peach Yuzu Puree:
- 1 whole peach peeled and diced
- 1 oz of Marie Brizard Yuzu liqueur
- 1 oz lemon oleo Saccharum made with light brown sugar
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
Preparation: Put in small saucepan and reduce. Puree mixture and press through a sieve for a smooth puree, discard pulp.
My creative process for creating cocktails is something I first thought was odd, first I think of the cocktail experience and aromatics, with actual flavor and the cocktail itself coming after these ideas. As hospitality professionals one trend I love seeing come to the forefront is viewing what we provide as an experience, not just putting out a cocktail. Even the best cocktail can be an underwhelming experience if all the pieces don’t make for an immersive journey, or even worse if it is served under pretentious auspices. I’ve long been a proponent of putting the experience first. That’s not to say cocktails can’t be fancy, or esoteric, it’s the delivery and small details that can take a cocktail from being a self-indulgent ego stroke for the person behind the bar to something that makes the guest feel truly special. The trick is using the right techniques and creating the environment that can make even the most esoteric cocktail feel as comfortable as someone’s favorite pair of comfy shoes. My vision of cocktail trends is being able to embrace multiple trends and techniques to deliver this.
Setting the stage is an important piece for this, and this is why before making the cocktail we should burn some palo santo, its fragrant smoke setting the mood and backdrop for the journey that is about to commence.
In creating my cocktail “Sense Memory” a big part of it is just that, using a familiar aspect, in this case, a smell, to instantly take someone to a happy place, in this case, a toasted marshmallow. I know very few people who wouldn’t find the smell of a perfectly toasted marshmallow transportive, many people have lasting memories that are associated with it which helps set up the experience, both visually and aromatically, which hold massive value as those make their impression before our first taste, and imbues a serious drink with some much-needed whimsy.
Another cocktail trend is one I’ve utilized for over a decade and have even written entire menus around, which is the use of tea in cocktails. Tea offers us a huge flavor library to pull from, and can be manipulated in many ways, with different extraction techniques able to make the same tea present differently in different applications. In this case, I did a high-volume extended extraction to draw out some tea tannins that make a lasting impact on the mouthfeel of the drink. And the tea used is also meant to complement the aforementioned marshmallow: a lovely blend of smoky earl grey makes another tie-in to those campfire memories that are part of the toasted marshmallow experience but elevated and twisted a bit with the beautiful bergamot-tinged notes that are a hallmark of earl grey.
I know the “bar chef” and the culinary cocktail trend is entrenched, and maybe an overused trope in some regards, but it gives us access to another flavor library to utilize in our work, and in “Sense Memory” some stunning bourbon barrel aged truffle maple syrup adds not just richness, but a little bit of that slightly damp forest floor sense memory that plays into marshmallows and campfires.
Two more trends I love utilizing are alternative acids, and the use of acids in stirred cocktails. Stirred cocktails can be notoriously difficult to balance since the general rule has been that only shaken drinks should use acid. But in this drink a few drops of acid solution lighten the cocktail and tighten up the flavors, making a cocktail that otherwise would be a bit heavy into something with a tinge of liveliness.
Visual theater is also a part of the experience, and this drink, while simple in its execution, has some unique techniques involved, from the sound of a big cube being spun into the glass, to the aesthetic of carefully measured liquid ingredients being poured over crystal clear ice, to the stir in glass with the cube making perfect rotations leans into the cocktail being a show, while at the same time giving us perfect control over the amount of dilution in the cocktail, speeding up service and using less ice, and therefore less water in our programs.
Trends are also cyclical, and one that a bunch of craft cocktail bartenders have shunned for a long time is the oft-maligned banana liqueur, which isn’t completely unfounded. Cheap banana spirits are awful, but a well-made one, like Marie Brizard Banana, can add nuance, depth, and whimsy to a drink. Instead of being a one-note banana bomb the addition of vanilla, pineapple, and spices makes for a great costar in creating the “Sense Memory” experience.
Finally, we get to the focus of our drink, and a trend that should be at the front of everyone’s priorities, treating the base ingredient with respect. The rhum I chose to showcase, that is the key driver in the cocktail is Rhum Saint James exquisite Cellar Reserve. It’s been a piece of my back bar and my menu for nearly a year now, highlighting a standout single batch from the huge stores of aged rhum held in the Saint James warehouses in Sainte Marie. Aged for 5 years in first fill ex-bourbon cask it gains depth and intrigue, with the hallmark character of Saint James Agricole picking up a healthy dose of wood, vanilla, baking spice, and citrus that stands out, yet at the same time blends in with the other ingredients, and its 51.3% ABV giving the cocktail a certain heft that would be lost with a lower proof spirit. It makes the drink definitively not just a rhum cocktail, but a Saint James cocktail, showcasing the pride and passion of Sainte Marie.
Is this a lot of trends in one drink? Of course, but with a deft hand, and not using a trend just for the sake of being trendy we create a true cocktail experience, part serious, part whimsical, and exceedingly immersive. The experience is something rooted in “Sense Memory” but something that epitomizes the experience coming first and that serious cocktails don’t have to be completely serious.
- 1 3/4 oz Saint James Cellar Reserve
- 1/2 oz Marie Brizard Banana
- 3/4 oz Light Smoky Earl Grey Orange Oleo Syrup*
- 1 barspon Truffle Maple Syrup (I used the Burton’s x Rare Tea Cellar Collaboration)
- 3 dashes Bitter Truth Bogarts Bitters
- 1 dash Bittermen’s Mole BItters
- 5 drops 10% Acid Solution*
Garnish: Toasted Marshmallow Dusted with Graham Cracker and Abuelita Cocoa
Glassware: Double Old Fashioned
Preparation: Before making the cocktail burn some palo santo to help set the tone for the experience. Place a 2×2 tempered ice cube in a double old-fashioned glass, build ingredients in glass and stir 15 seconds to chill, no additional dilution is needed as the light syrup provides the main dilution component. Toast a skewered marshmallow and dust with crushed graham cracker and Abuelita cocoa powder, place over rim of glass. Serve on a leather cocktail coaster.
Side Serve with a cup of tea (same as used in syrup production) sweetened with .5 ounces of the tea syrup to 4 ounces tea. *Homemade or hard to source ingredients can be sent to judges for ease of replication if desired. *Light Smoked Earl Grey Orange Oleo Syrup: In a bag combine 350 grams orange peel and 1 liter of sugar, vacuum seal and store in refrigerator for at least 48 hours. Brew 2 liters of smoked earl grey tea (I used rare tea cellars Smoky Regal Earl Grey, if necessary you can use a 50/50 blend of high quality lapsang suchong and earl grey, but the specific tea yields the best results) by steeping 30 grams tea in 2.25 liters of 180 degree water for 8 minutes, strain tea, and add hot water to return to 2 liters of volume if needed, add sugar and peels stirring to dissolve, fine strain final product through a fine strainer and paper filter.
*10% Acid Solution: Combine 1 liter water, 60 grams citric acid and 40 grams malic acid, stir to dissolve.