The 6th Vinos de Jerez Cocktail Competition final was held on December 11th at Clover Club in Brooklyn, NY, and Dan Nicolaescu from New York City's Mayahuel won the prize for Best Sherry Cocktail with his After Dark Cocktail!
The Vinos de Jerez Cocktail Competition is a nationwide competition of bartenders/mixologists who are challenged to create the best Sherry Cocktail in America. It was created to showcase the incredible diversity of Sherry wine, and its remarkable versatility in cocktails and matching with food. The contestants’ cocktails can be made with any style of Sherry, from any bodega in Jerez, but they have to be currently featured on a working, existing restaurant or bar cocktail program at the time of submission.
Dan Nicolaescu competed against other top bartenders from across the country during a live demonstration and presentation in front of a distinguished panel of judges, which included David Wondrich, Author of Punch and Imbibe!, Historian, founding partner of BAR; Julie Reiner, proprietor of both Flatiron Lounge and Clover Club in New York; Jacques Bezuidenhout, Winner of the 2005 Vinos de Jerez Cocktail Competition and Sherry Ambassador for San Francisco; Andy Seymour, US Sherry Ambassador, and BAR partner; and Steven Olson, aka wine geek, who manages the Sherry education campaign in the United States, and is a founding partner in BAR.
In addition to crafting their cocktail for the judges, each finalist had to justify why their cocktail is great, and explain in detail such issues as the best time to serve it and the perfect food match.
All contestants were indeed winners and deserve recognition, by virtue of being selected as finalists in this competition from more applicants nationwide than ever before in a demanding and highly competitive preliminary judging round that preceded the final competition. The level of competition was so high that each of the nine cocktails were separated by the narrowest of margins, as witnessed by members of the trade and press, who were able to sample each of their cocktails throughout the presentations. The winners were announced immediately following the competition:
Best Sherry Cocktail — After Dark Cocktail
Dan Nicolaescu, Mayahuel, New York City
1 1/2 oz. Lustau Dry Oloroso Don Nuño Sherry
3/4 oz. El Tesoro Reposado Tequila
1/4 oz. Galliano Ristretto Liqueur
1/4 oz. Benedictine Liqueur
1 dash Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Pour all ingredients into a chilled mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.
First Runner Up — Palo Negro
Ivy Mix, Clover Club, Brooklyn, NY
2 oz. Partida Reposado
1 oz. Lustau Península Palo Cortado
1/2 oz. Cruzan Blackstrap Rum
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon Demerara syrup (2 parts Demerara sugar to 1 part water)
Stir over ice, strain into a Nick and Nora with a dividend side. Garnish with oils from an orange disc and drop into the glass.
Second Runner Up (a tie!) — Esperanto
Jackson Cannon, The Hawthorne, Boston, MA
2 oz. Del Maguey Crema Mezcal
3/4 oz. La Cigarrera Manzanilla Sherry
1/2 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
Dash of Regan's Formula Orange Bitters
Stir in a mixing glass with ice and strain into a chilled low ball and garnish with lemon oil by twisting a fresh peel of lemon over the top and discarding.
Second Runner Up (a tie!) — Apples for Your Oysta’
Michael Flannery, Stand Comedy Club, New York City
1 1/2 oz. La Gitana Manzanilla sherry
1 oz. Lillet Rose (rapidly infused with chamomile)
1/2 oz. Del Maguey Santo Domingo Albarradas Mezcal
2 dashes Bar Keep Baked Apple Bitters
Zest of orange
3 chamomile flowers
Build sherry, Lillet, mezcal and bitters in a mixing glass, add ice, and stir for a minimum of 20 seconds. Strain into chilled coupe glass, zest orange peel over drink and discard, add 3 chamomile flowers to float as garnish.
To rapidly infuse the Lillet take 5 oz. Lillet Rose with 5 bar spoons dried chamomile flowers and combine in ISI container. Infuse with nitrous charge and let steep for 2 minutes. Empty pressure and continue to steep for 2 more minutes before straining through fine sieve. This produces less than 4 ounces due to absorption from dried flowers being enough for 3 cocktails.
The other winners / finalists were:
Josh Loving, Midnight Cowboy, Austin, TX – “The Cask Word”
Lynnette Marrero, DrinksAt6 and LUPEC, New York City – “Ma Cherie Amour”
Patricia Richards, Botero Restaurant inside Encore Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, NV – “Pearfection”
Tom Richter, The Beagle & Tomr’s Tonic, New York City – “Round the Horn”
Andrea Tateosian, The Gibson, Washington, DC – “Sombra Pálida”
Robyn Cleveland, The Raven’s Club, Ann Arbor, MI – “Abanico”*
Three of the top four winners earned a coveted spot on Steve Olson’s annual sommelier / chef / bartender journey through Jerez, and the first runner-up, Ivy Mix, received a full scholarship to the Beverage Alcohol Resource Five Day Advanced Program, as she is the only winner yet to attend. Each finalist also received an autographed copy of Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl by David Wondrich, and an autographed copy of Sherry, Manzanilla, & Montilla Peter Liem and Jesús Barquín.