Just as people are taking more of an interest in where their food comes from, today’s savvy consumers are demanding more sophisticated cocktails featuring quality ingredients.
Inspired by themes from “Mad Men” to “The Great Gatsby,” sophisticated cocktails are making a comeback.
Fresh seasonal produce, including fruits and herbs, high-quality premium spirits and flavor-infused homemade syrups are the hallmarks of this evolving scene, and all were in evidence at Cayman’s first Cocktail Week at the end of October.
The event, sponsored by Jacques Scott Wines & Spirits, provided an opportunity for cocktail lovers to indulge, and for the island’s creative mixologists to showcase their skills.
“There are some great creative bartenders around at the moment,” says Jo Austin, Jacques Scott’s Cayman Cocktail Week organizer. “Martin Mchugh at Barolo Lounge makes a fantastic twist on an Old Fashioned, Freya Palesch at Deckers is always coming up with new ideas, and there’s a new bartender at Agua, Alex Palumbo, who has worked in some of the best bars in London.”
Jacques Scott has been instrumental over the last few years in driving Cayman’s cocktail scene forward. For example, the company arranged a local competition to send a Cayman representative to the 2013 Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail competition, described as the most prestigious of its kind in the world. In a brilliant display of talent, and amid a high-pressure setting, the head bartender at Agua, Simon Crompton, placed 11th in the world finals.
“Over the last two years I have been working closely with the bartenders on island, introducing the World Class bartender competition and learning about global trends and techniques within the cocktail world,” Austin says. “This really opened our eyes to how much fun we could have and how much further we could go with the cocktail scene in Cayman. We want to give people new and exciting experiences while promoting the craft of the cocktail.
“We’ve definitely seen a lot of bars moving away from the everyday piña coladas in the last couple of years. Worldwide, people are cooking and mixing drinks using fresh local ingredients, and it’s no different here now. Simon Crompton goes to the farmers market every week to see what’s fresh,” she says. “We’re also seeing a resurgence of classic cocktails made popular by shows like ‘Mad Men’ and the new ‘Great Gatsby’ movie.”
Indeed, the Great Gatsby movie was part of the inspiration behind Cocktail Week’s Gatsby event, a 1920s themed cocktail party at Luca, where guests sipped cocktails inspired by the flapper era and many were decked out in the fashion of that period.
“The bartenders were making Zacapa Rum Old Fashioned, and ‘Gatsby’ punch with Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve,” Austin says. “Everyone was dancing to ‘20s music and the atmosphere was amazing.
“We also did a Punch event at Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, and I couldn’t get over the recipes they came up with.”
Austin adds: “I’m already planning next year’s World Class competition, which starts in January, and we will see all sorts of great events within the season. We’ll be focusing on new global trends like ‘Mediterranean Master,’ which showcases the use of Mediterranean ingredients in cocktails, and also Punch with Don Julio Tequila, which is going to be a lot of fun.
“I love to see people getting so excited about great cocktails. It’s great to see bartenders wanting to learn and create too. We’re so lucky to have so many dedicated cocktail enthusiasts on island.”
Lucky Guy Punch
If you missed out on Cayman Cocktail Week, you can still try
one of the featured cocktails at home. Here’s the recipe for Michael’s Genuine
Food & Drink ‘Lucky Guy Punch’, enjoyed by enthusiasts at Cocktail Week’s
kick-off party, The Punchbowl.
- 1 ½ oz Hendricks Gin
- ½ oz Framboise
- ½ oz St. Germain
- 1 oz Housemade orgeat syrup or Crème de Noyeaux
- ½ oz lemon
- ½ oz lime
- 6 raspberries
- 1 ½ oz sparkling wine
Muddle raspberries in a mixing glass. Add spirits,
juice and orgeat. Add ice and shake. Double strain into a highball glass, add ice
and sparkling wine. Garnish with raspberries and skewered and thinly sliced
Housemade orgeat syrup:
Toast 2 cups of almonds in an oven. Crush them while warm
and add to a 50/50 simple syrup (1qt water, 1qt sugar). Simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand until cool. Strain through cheesecloth to remove
particles. Refrigerate for up to one week.