This week in New York City, Appleton Estate hosted their Remixology Finals: 2012 Bartender Challenge, where finalists from New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Nashville, Tenn., tested the mastery of their mixology skills for a chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Jamaica.
The event was held at New York City bar The Liberty, where the mood was a mix of '80s and '90s funk, tropical vacation, and college spring break; keeping with the theme of the sweeter (headache-inducing), fruity Jamaican rum — the event’s honorary spirit.
Judges at the event included former Real World cast member Jamie Chung, a mixology enthusiast, and fellow MTV alum Diem Brown. Other judges included cocktail experts Dale DeGroff, Natalie Jacobs and Colin Appiah.
Chung shared with TDM her enthusiasm for the event: "I love that Appleton Estate is all about fun, and that they really appreciate the mixologists and bartenders that serve their rum." To her, Appleton does a great job of including, and appealing to, their consumers, as evidenced in the evening’s event. "It is just so lighthearted and fun," Chung continued, "The crazy theme and the music theme are so fitting with the flavors, and yet it still has the essence of the rum."
Bartenders and event staff wore Flavor Flav-style chains and clocks, disco-inspired afro wigs, and other elements of costume garb. Jamaican-inspired bites were passed around the party, including Jamaican-style chicken wings, jerk-spiced lamb ribs, grilled shrimp with pineapple, grilled plantains, and vegetable sliders with pineapple remoulade. All bites had sweet and spicy flavors, save the welcome savory explosion in the vegetable sliders.
For the actual competition, the contenders were tasked with crafting specific drinks for specific songs, and were judged on theme, creativity, taste, and overall presentation. Drink stations throughout the event held the signature drinks from the contestants, and guests were able to taste them prior to the competition. From the strong to the stronger, the drinks used sweet flavors to complement the summery rum.
Lubens Besse’s round-one cocktail, Jammin', created to Bob Marley’s "Jammin’," mixed Appleton reserve with strawberry, coconut lemon, and kiwi mint jams as well as lemon juice, soda water, and crushed ice. For round two, he made a James Brown "Payback" cocktail, entitled Godfather of Soul, which combined Cocchi Americano, crème de pêche, bar spoon absinthe, and bitters with the Appleton reserve, and was topped with powdered sugar. Besse, the New York contestant from the Mondrian SoHo, got fourth place in the competition.
Coming in third was contestant Dan Stahl, of Rickhouse in San Francisco. In round one he mixed Appleton reserve, fresh lime juice, coconut cream, passion fruit syrup, allspice dram, and brut champagne for an ultra-sweet take on punch, which he entitled Mercury Rising (performed to "Pride" by U2). In the second round, he crafted a cocktail called Heart in Bloom to Queen’s "Don’t Stop Me Now," combining the reserve with lemon juice, Licor 43, Cherry Heering, and simple syrup, topped with two ounces of white beer.
In second place was Nashville, Tenn.’s Ben Clemons, whose firery spirit won much of the crowd. His first cocktail, crafted blind to Stevie Wonder’s "Superstitious" (which he entitled "Cherry Superstitious"), added green apple juice, Cherry Heering, and Dolin Blanc to the Appleton reserve, and was topped with homemade all-spice soda, green apple twist, and a maraschino cherry. His second cocktail, Jacky Blaze, crafted to "Fire" by Jimi Hendrix, was literally set ablaze. Appleton reserve was mixed with dry curacao, jackfruit syrup, and lemon juice, and garnished with Lemonheart 151 inside a jackfruit slice that was set on fire, and topped with cinnamon sugar for sparks.
Finally, the champion of the Remixology Challenge, was Ted Kilpatrick, of Boston’s No.9. In his first round, he crafted a drink called Red But Not Quite, to "Pink" by Aerosmith, while wearing a bunny suit. The recipe combined Appleton reserve with grenadine, lime, Angostura bitters, egg white, and Fentimans tonic water. His next drink, mixed up while he wore a bleach blonde wig and Hooters tee to Axel Rose’s "Welcome to the Jungle," was named conveniently named Axel’s Thorn. Airing on the side of simplicity, this drink combined the reserve with a house-made mezcal-based crème de roses cordial, Campari, and two drops of mole tincture.