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Tales Recap Part 1

Anticipating that I'd have a hangover the size of a punch bowl, and knowing that I'd be competing as a finalist in the Catdaddy Bar Chef Challenge in the afternoon of my second day at Tales of the Cocktail, I intentionally lightened my schedule to allow some breathing room.  In the morning I attended a spirits tasting workshop led by Paul Pacult, the man who's probably tasted and rated every spirit in production today, and after that it was time to focus on winning some trophies!

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Several months ago I submitted my recipe for the Catdaddy Bar Chef Challenge held by Piedmont Distillers, the makers of Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine. The top three submitters were selected to present their recipe in a competition at Tales, and I happened to be one of them.  The other two competitors were Jim Kearns, a New York mixologist who’s worked at some of the top bars in the city including Pegu Club, Death & Co, and Mayahuel, and now the bar manager and bartender at the acclaimed Rye House; and Giacomo Cuccurullo, a Bar Chef Instructor at the Instituto Culinario de Mexico.  The judging panel consisted of Dale DeGroff (aka King Cocktail), Paul Tuennerman (aka Mr. Cocktail), Alan Kropf & Jeff Dorenbush of Mutineer Magazine and Joe Michalek, the Founder of Piedmont Distillers.

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From left, Joe Michalek, Paul Tuennerman, Jim Kearns, you know who, Dale Degroff, Giacomo Cuccurullo, Jeff Dorenbush, and Alan Kropf.  On to the drink pics and recipes...

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 Chinese Bootlegger
my recipe

2 ounces Catdaddy
2 ounces Oolong tea
1 ½ ounces grapefruit juice
½ ounce lemon juice
¼ ounce agave syrup
¼ ounce cinnamon syrup
¼ ounce Angostura bitters

Shake over ice, strain into ice filled glass (or mason jar), garnish with slices of grapefruit and lemon.

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Moonshine Mountain Punch
Created by Jim Kearns.

1 ½ ounce Catdaddy
3 sugar cubes
1 ounce soda
1 dash Angostura bitters
½ ounce lemon juice
¾ ounce grapefruit juice
½ ounce rum

Muddle sugar, soda and bitters. Add other ingredients & stir. Serve over ice in a highball, garnish with orange slice. I have to say this was quite a refreshing drink, and as soon as I tasted it I knew it was a threat.

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Last Kiss
Created by Giacomo Cuccurullo.

1 ounce Catdaddy
2 ½ strawberries
10 basil leaves
½ ounce clove syrup
½ ounce vodka or Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon
dried vanilla fruit

Smoke cocktail glass with vanilla fruit. Muddle strawberries, basil and syrup in mixing glass. Add spirits, shake, double strain into smoky vanilla Martini glass.  I was really eager to try this drink, but unfortunately Giacomo was busy smoking vanilla beans and double straining cocktails for the masses that I didn't get to have a sip.  One of these days I have to make this one for myself.

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At stake were two trophies: the Golden Mason Jar Trophy  (below left) for the Judges' favorite cocktail and the Moonshine Still Trophy (below right) for the people's choice of favorite, determined by ballot.

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This  is what you call shaking and praying at the same time.

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Hustlin' for the people.

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Dude you're crushing my hand, which I still need for shaking more cocktails for you.

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The judges making their final decision.

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And the winner of both the Judges' Trophy and People's Choice goes to...

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Yes indeed, it was a great day, as I pulled off a double whammy.

But before I end this post, I have to give a big shout out to Sarah LeRoy, Joe Michalek, and Jessie Paschal from Piedmont Distillers, who went out of their way to make sure all us contestants had everything we needed in New Orleans, from accomodations to ingredients and tools.  The whole event was so well organized that you couldn't tell this was the first time they'd done the Bar Chef Challenge.

I wonder who's recipe will be the winner next year.

Look out for Part 3 on Monday, featuring the Spirited Dinner at John Besh's August and Kermit Ruffins jammin' his ass off at Vaughan's.

*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below.