What is better than a room full of skilled bartenders from the top bars in Austin mixing excellent cocktails for you? Getting free tickets to the Official Drink of Austin competition courtesy of Austin Food & Wine Alliance and What Are You Drinking! That’s what.
The reincarnated booze bash returns this Thursday, February 20, after a two year nap to test the skills of six bar teams from drink.well., Four Seasons Hotel, Midnight Cowboy, qui, Weather Up, and Whisler’s to see who wins the title of the Official Drink of Austin. The cocktail competition, hosted by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance and Tipsy Texan will be held 7–10 pm AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center to raise funds for culinary grants awarded by the Alliance.
“We want to showcase the Texas spirits industry in this event,” said Austin Food & Wine Alliance executive director, Mariam Parker. “When the Official Drink of Austin contest was started by the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Tito’s Vodka about a decade ago, Tito’s was the primary distillery in the state. Now there are more than 40 distillers operating in the state and 13 participating in our event.”
Book your cab ride ahead of time, because tasting your way through this party could make you a tipsy Texan. The competitors will be set up in the middle of the room, showing off their skills and serving samples to guests. They will be surrounded by a phalanx of Texas distilleries and local chefs. Not only will you be able to taste the Official Drink of Austin contest entries, but you will be able to sample cocktails featuring Texas spirits including Deep Eddy Vodka, Dripping Springs Vodka, Dulce Vida Organic Tequila, Genius Gin, Paula Texas Spirits, Red River Whiskey, Tequila 512, Tito’s Vodka, Treaty Oak Distilling, White Hat Rum, and Z Tequila.
Bob your head to booty music provided DJ ulovei while noshing on nibbles served by some of the hottest chefs in town including Josh Watkins and Plinio Sandalio of The Carillon, Peter Maffei of Finn & Porter, Camden Stuerzenberger of Fork & Vine, Jean Pierre Lacoste of Frank, John Lichtenberger of Peche, Lawrence Kocurek of TRACE, Mat Clouser of Swift’s Attic, Kristine Kittrell of Weather Up, Eric Silverstein of The Peached Tortilla, Scott Higby of TRIO, and Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier of Lick’s Honest Ice Cream.
The format of the competition has changed a bit this year, with a change to a team competition rather than individual bartenders battling. The six participating a five-member bar teams were chosen from a field of twenty entrants who submitted three drink recipes made with at least one, one-ounce Texas spirit as the main ingredient.
The six finalist bars were chosen to compete in an intense process by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance executive director, Mariam Parker, Alliance board member, Michael Bepko, and professional bartender and drinks author, David Alan (aka the Tipsy Texan) who was instrumental in establishing the original Official Drink competition.
“It was not easy to pick the six finalists by any means,” said Parker. “To earn a spot in the competition, bar teams had to bring something unique. We wanted to see special cocktails. For example, one of the drinks the Drink.well team submitted featured a foam made with Jester King beer. We have such a creative community and many of the bartenders are artistic. It will be fun to see how their ideas translate into the cocktail. ”
At the Official Drink event, contestants will present a set of cocktails for each judge that are made with no more than six components including alcohol and non-alcohol elements like drops, rinses and dashes. They will be given 17 minutes to wow the judges with showmanship, creativity, craft and taste. The crowd will be in on the act awarding People’s Choice points to each team’s overall score. The two teams with the highest scores will throw it down in a drink off live on stage, mixing their best cocktails for the judges.
The judges will have their work cut out for them. The panel is packed with exceptional credentials. Jason Kosmas, has made his mark in the cocktail world as co-founder of the 86 Company and helped spark the classic cocktail scene New York City as co-founder of Employees Only and Macao Trading Co. He will be looking for touches of Austin when marking his ballot.
“It will be important that the cocktails represent the city by capturing the balance between the funkiness, the nerdiness, and the fun,” said Kosmas.
He is also looking for drinks that aren’t over done. “The cocktail scene has gotten into the place where drinks have gotten crazy with bold ingredients,” said Kosmas. “It’s been said that the greatest technique that any chef can exercise is restraint. The same is true for cocktails. Don’t make it too complicated. It doesn’t need to be complex, it just needs to taste good. Sometimes bartenders just need to stop before they put their last ingredient in.”
That sounds like a recipe for success. The winners get the honor of touting the title of Austin’s Official Drink for the entire year. The official drink will be featured at Austin Food & Wine Alliance events throughout the year.
Win free tickets!
Tickets are $65 each to attend the event, but one lucky winner will receive two tickets. All you have to do is answer the following question:
“What two Texas spirits were included in the winning cocktail recipe from the 2011 Drink Local Night?”
Submit your answer in the comment section below. One winner will be chosen at random from all correct submissions.
Photo of Jason Kosmas taken by Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer