Passion Fruit Showdown

Beads of sweat formed on mixologists’ foreheads. Arms manipulated shakers in a captivating blur. Fresh juices flowed. Mouths watered. And tantalizing new cocktails came to be.

Twenty-five up-and-coming mixologists took to the stage in the exhibit hall at the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show last month to demonstrate two key attributes at this year’s Shake It Up! competition: (1) Their understanding and growing mastery of mixology and (2) their ability to use that knowledge base and their instincts to create an original recipe on the fly using a secret ingredient — passion fruit — revealed to them just before the competition began.  

Sponsored by Southern Wine & Spirits of America and judged by a panel of its nationally respected mixologists, the competition dazzled onlookers as the entrants quickly set about the task of building a noteworthy drink. “This year, the contest confirmed that it is one of the top events during the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show,” says Southern’s national director of mixology and spirits educator Francesco Lafranconi. “Now in its third year, the competition is quickly becoming an institution where 25 contestants express their best creativity and mixology skills to win cash prizes.”

The winners and their respective drinks are:

1st Place - $5,000
Victoria D’Amato-Moran, Cent’ Anni Cocktail Consultants, San Francisco

Passionate Woman
1 bar spoon fresh passion fruit 
1 ½ ounces SKYY Passion Fruit Vodka
1 ounce Aperol
½ ounce X Rated Fusion
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
Grated nutmeg
Build, shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

2nd Place - $2,500
Natália Luglio, mixologist, Crystal Cruises

Apassionata
1 ½ ounces Tequila Patron Añejo
½ ounce Malibu Passion Fruit Rum
½ ounce sugar syrup
2 fresh strawberries
1 passion fruit
Juice of ½ pressed lime
Muddle the strawberries with passion fruit, sugar syrup and lime juice. Add the rest of the ingredients. Shake well with ice. Pour into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a strawberry.

3rd Place – $1,500
Max Solano, Emeril Lagasse’s Table 10, Las Vegas

New Orleans Sunset
2 ounces Bulleit Bourbon
¾ ounce Luxardo Maraschino
1 ounce fresh blood orange juice
½ ounce rock candy syrup
1 teaspoon fresh passion fruit
1 egg white
Garnish: blood orange wheel
Double-strain and serve chilled and straight-up. Garnish with blood orange wheel.

4th Place – $700
Columbine Quillen, Blacksmith Restaurant, Bar & Lounge, Bend, Ore.

Epic Absintheticity
1 ounce passion fruit
½ ounce blackberry puree
1 ½ ounces simple syrup
1 ounce lime juice
½ ounce Pernod Absinthe
1 ½ ounce Navan
Shake and serve up in a cocktail glass.

5th Place - $300
Juan Alvarez, Chairman, Southern California Chapter, U.S. Bartenders’ Guild

Passion Basket
1 ½ ounces Pama Liqueur
¾ ounce Myers’s Rum
Pineapple juice
Blood orange
Passion fruit
Muddle passion fruit, blood orange and pineapple pieces. Pour all ingredients into shaker, shake hard and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with raspberry, rosemary and/or passion fruit. NCB