Sometimes a girl has to get off the farm, and so I headed into town the other night for the Kansas City USBG round of the Bombay Sapphire & GQ Magazine Most Imaginative Bartender Competition. Quite a title, I know, but it was quite a contest.
Ten bartenders from KC, St. Louis and Wichita presented their creations to a panel of judges who scrutinized everything from bottle presentation and competitors’ appearance to taste, aroma and garnish. The drinks were indeed an inventive lot, with ingredients such as basil-lemon zest, curried sweet corn and raspberry-hibiscus syrups; Earl grey, passionfruit and lemon-ginger teas; liqueurs like Suze (bittersweet gentian), Sorel (spiced hibiscus) and SNAP (gingerbread); a new vodka from Kansas’ newest distillery, Wheat State Distilling in Wichita; and a purple carrot reduction, each chosen to enhance one of Bombay Sapphire’s 10 botanicals.
In the end, Brock Schulte of The Rieger eked out a win with his Le Mich: Bombay Sapphire, verjus blanc, honeydew melon juice, black tea syrup and Burlesque Bitters, garnished with a thick, creamy foam made from some kind of seaweed that was more unctuous than foamy. It was delicious enough, and Schulte’s performance impressive enough, to wow the judges and send him to the U.S. finals in Las Vegas in September.
Scott Tipton came in just one point behind Schulte with his Bluebird Jewelep, a riff on the classic mint julep all the more fitting since he’s a bartender at Julep Cocktail Club. His was anything but classic, though. It started with the competition gin, added a pineapple and lemongrass shrub and finished with a mint-Thai basil-absinthe-tea mist that made it hands-down the most aromatic drink of the lot.
Third place and the People’s Choice award went to The Jacobson’s Tom Stein and The Divine, which had so much going on—including a cracked pepper pickled strawberry bring, smoked lemon cordial, Tiki bitters and a sweet mini pepper garnish—and yet came together into a cohesive cocktail clearly appreciated by the crowd.Continue Reading