This is the latest post in our 2014-2015 Starchefs International Chefs Congress series on in-sight.

Mixologists are comfortably bartenders, again – another “honest” proclamation that was heralded at the 9th Annual International Chefs Congress ( where gins, rums, bourbons, bitters, whiskies and syrups reigned supreme during the annual “Congress Cocktail.”

Among some of the combinations on display:

  • Buttermilk Punch, Scott Baird and Josh Harris, Trick Dog, San Francisco, CA: Wild Turkey 101, Combier, Buttermilk, Earl Grey Tea, Sassafras and Lemon.
  • Delta Deanna, Maxwell Britten, Maison Premiere, Brooklyn, NY: Plymouth Gin, Simple Syrup, Lime Juice, Celery Water, Celery Bitters and Champagne.
  • Long and Leggy, Danielle Pizzutillo, Charcoal Bar, Chicago, IL: Cherry Blossom Tea-infused Fin, Honey and Lemon Juice
  • Orange Julius Caesar, Jay Carr, The Eddy, Providence, RI: Shellback Caribbean Rum, Bols Yogurt Liqueur, Vanilla syrup, Lime Juice, Bittermens Orange Cream Citrate and Orange Peel
  • Four Roses Bourbon, Robert Krueger, Extra Fancy, Brooklyn, NY: Four Roses Bourbon, Tito's Vodka, and Purely Syrup Ginger and Habañero Syrups
  • Jean Lafitte, Alan Walter, Loa at the International House, New Orleans, LA: Macchu Pisco, Matusalem Platino Rum, Spanish Moss Syrup, Lime Juice, Lime and Fennel Powder, and Pineapple.
  • Loan Oak, Jillian Vose, the Dead Rabbit, New York, NY: Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whisky, Green Chartreuse, Da Rabbit Orinoco Bitters, Pistachio Syrup, Lemon Juice and Curry Leaves
  • An Italian in Mexico, Sother Teague, Amor y Amargo, New York, NY: Reposado Tequila, Amaro Montenegro, Aperol, Dale Degroff's Pimento Bitters, and Orange Twist
  • Brown Derby, Tonia Guffey & Eric Job of Dram, Brooklyn, NY: Kings County Distillery Bourbon, Grapefruit, and Honey

Check out Junior Merino's in-sight post on Shrub Cocktails HERE

Each bartender had his own riff on what he/she likes to play with. There was a lot of talk around sours, including the ultra-niche craft beer market, as well as tweaking cocktails with new kinds of syrups (habanero got a shout out from the Simply Syrup folks for its increasing popularity).

Bitters and herbs also had their fans. Sother Teague of Amor y Amargo says he’s staked his whole bar around bitters and could talk about the importance of how they add intensity and flavor to a cocktail long into the night. His ode to bespoke cocktails played into the event’s “authenticity” theme with a hark to traditional ways, yet with modern touches and yes, a whole lot of shaking.

For Alan Water of Loa at the International House in New Orleans, his inspiration lies with fresh herbs, citrus, and different leaves. On a given night he has about 20 or so surrounding him at a time, from ginger to a Serrano pepper to a rose petal to help add that certain dash to a drink.

Of the trends discussed, Maxwell Britten of Maison Premiere says he’s seeing a boon in the gin movement, mostly around artisanal brands. Personally, he tends to favor “old world style” cocktails which often means adding a modern twist like homemade tinctures and syrups, infusions, batters, and foams.

Jillian Vose, Head Bartender at The Dead Rabbit in Brooklyn, spoke about building a drink that highlights the spirit, without overwhelming it with too many ingredients or flavors. Tonia Guffey of Dram agreed that paring down recipes to include things that truly contribute to the balance and the flavor of a cocktail is best.  She’s seeing a spike in brown spirits like cognac, aged rum, and scotch, but also sees a surge in whiskies. “For me,” she says, “It’s all about playing around with different combinations and having fun.”

CLICK HERE to check out the previous post in our StarChefs ICC Series featuring Chef Ryan McCaskey!

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