Hands froze, twitched and “GO!” exclaimed a voice in the microphone. Fingers darted foreword; snatched shining shakers and filled pints with crushed cubes of ice. Liquids sloshed and eggs cracked. Yolks ran yellow into a bowl while their whites made a splash into the pint glass.
POP! Lids snapped shut and the shaker rose to the shoulder. “50 seconds left,” a voice called. Hot hands clasped cold metal and arms moved in rhythm. Three bartenders blew out their cheeks and sucked at the air. Shake, shake, shake… “30 seconds,” called the voice. Onlookers grew silent, necks craned to watch lids tip off and frothy libations pour forth.
Backs bent and noses parked inches away from chilled glass. Hands steadied, wiped themselves on aprons and plunged forth like a hummingbird beaks at the nectar before them. Fingers blurred like wings and hands hovered over the drinks, flicking rose petals and spearing limes. One carved balls of peach and another pulled out twigs of purple sugar; lavender sticks, a little something for the mouth and eye.
Last month Macchu Pisco ran a cocktail competition across the United States, stopping in some of this nation’s best bar scenes along the way. The specs? Five minutes to mix one cocktail and pour a glass for each judge. The competition in New York alone showcased four judges and 16 bartenders.
While each bartender had to present their cocktail’s name and ingredients, they also stepped forth to defend their combination. Why was this cocktail created? Why use Ecuadorian rose petal or Peruvian tobacco leaves? Ultimately, how does this cocktail tie Macchu Pisco to its homeland, Peru?
When considering a new product, the challenge is often not in how to mix it but how to mix it creatively. A smart concept inspires to creative flavors, fostering an entirely new drinking experience. During the competition, I wandered between the rows of sleek Peruvian citizens and chic New Yorkers. Constantly, I checked in at the back table, chatting with those who balanced flavor and thought in each cup.
Maura McGuigan - Bar Pleiades - 20 East 76th Street, NYC
Cocktail: Golden Sour
Thought Process: Connecting the chemistry of cooking with that in mixing cocktails, McGuigan first made syrup using Peruvian Cinchona bark. “Corn inspired Peruvian cuisine,” she said, and promptly shook yellow egg yolk with Pisco, lime, Angostura Bitters and pineapple syrup, resulting in a drink with velvety richness.
Abigail Gullo - The Beagle - 62 Avenue A, NYC
Cocktail: The Panam, Sloe Flight South
Thought Process: All about re-creating classic cocktails using different spirits, Gullo used sloe biting gin and Bitter Truth Crème de Violette for an herbaceous and floral aroma. Lemon juice kept the cocktail young and when raised to lips, the Violette and gin both brightened and refined Pisco’s must.
Greg Seider - The Summmit Bar - 133 Ave. C Loisaida, NYC
Cocktail: She Loves Me Not
Thought Process: The man had rose petals on his sleeve when we spoke. “They are edible petals from Ecuador,” Seider explained. Given to him by a Chinese and Peruvian friend, her beautiful combination of ethnicity served as Seider’s inspiration. The bright rose petals combined with Szechuan peppercorns for depth as he sprayed the finished glass with smoked cinnamon.
Chicha Morada Fizz
Esteban Ordonez- Representative - Don Q Rum
2 oz. Macchu pisco
1½ oz. chicha morada
1 oz. egg white
Inca Cola to Top
Dry shake, add 5 ice cubes and long shake, strain into a 3 ice cube Chadwick Collins vintage 1960 glass.
Representative for Don Q Rum, Ordonez was a tough one to track down. His fizz, however, was less difficult to place. Simple like childhood memories, the cocktail instantly reminded of an adult grape soda. The effervescence was undeniable but the sweet didn’t cloy. While the first sip sent me memories of summers swinging in the park, the second reminded me of Spanish sangria. Combine both and one finds an accurate representation of adults at play, A.K.A. going out for drinks.
The Indio Fumidor
James Menite – Fornino –Park Slope, Brooklyn
Dash of egg white
Tobacco and peach infused lavender chamomile tea
.5 oz. fresh lime juice
.75 oz. honey syrup
1 dried lavender flower stick, 2 balls fresh peach
Procedure for Tobacco and Peach infused lavender chamomile tea:
In boiling water add lavender chamomile tea, fresh tobacco leaves and fresh peaches. Steep for one hour; strain. Add touch of cold water and chill in refrigerator.
Stir together equal parts honey and hot water.
Procedure for Cocktail:
Shake the first four ingredients dry, then over ice cubes in Boston shaker. Add to highball and garnish with fresh peach balls and lavender sticks.
“My friend gave me Peruvian tobacco leaves,” says Menite. “Honey is more subtle than sugar, and also more concentrated so it won’t affect other flavor schemes.” Cherry bitters complimented the dried lavender and the peach kept the aroma delicate; cigar smoke curling on a midsummer breeze.