There are two types of people in this world: those who dunk their cookies into hot drinks, and those who do not. I am a dunker and damn proud of it. I love dunking buttery, sweet treats into a cup of freshly brewed coffee. I also love tequila. I also love cocktails.
Wait – this isn’t a crazy tangent I’m going off on. The other night I had the pleasure of trying the top three Queensland entries for Sangrita, in the World Class competition.
World Class is a global competition that celebrates cocktail culture, and the art of bartending. Run by Diageo RESERVE Brands (these guys make Johnnie Walker, Ketel One, and Don Julio), the competition kicks off with three heats throughout Australia. State finalists are then decided, then one winner per state, and then 15 final barentenders compete in a national final in 2011, with the winner chosen to represent Australia against the best bartenders around the world.
The Mexican Sangrita Ritual round recently finished, with the three state winners all hailing from Brisbane. The original Sangrita Ritual involves a spicy, tomato-citrus drink that’s sipped alternately with a shot of tequila. The flavours bring out the tequila’s natural flavour, and the drink is one to savor. In this round, bartenders were asked to put their own spin on this 90-year-old tradition, using either Jose Cuervo Platino or Don Julio tequila.
Our first stop was Cloudland, where we tried Adam Brewer’s creation that earned him third place. At first I was a little nervous when informed I’d have to sip the Don Julio tequila straight up. Um, excuse me? Where is the lime and sachet of salt? Jay from RESERVE and Adam explained that a big part of the appeal of the sangrita challenge was to change people’s perceptions of tequila. Everyone thinks you just shot the stuff – not so. In fact, our comrades over in Mexico have been sippin’ on the agave-based spirit forever.
To my surprise, it was very easy to drink. We sipped it after trying the food component of Adam’s sangrita experience – oytsers with white chocolate shavings, coriander, and a cucumber sorbet. Again, I was surprised to see such a pairing of flavours, but they worked so well: the white chocolate cut through the overpowering oyster taste, and the coriander providied a burst of fresh flavour that matched perfectly with the sweeter-tasting highland tequila. Adam took his inspiration from the connection Mexico has to the sea, using natural influences.
Next, we moved on to Canvas for a quick nosh (I will review the grub in a upcoming post), and got ready to try the winner’s sangrita – Angus Buton”s “A Little Blood for a Silver Peace”. Angus was inspired by French-Mexican hitsory and Western movies. The food component was macarons. MACARONS. I played it cool but was pretty excited to see the little chewy treats appear on the table.
The macarons were from Monsieur Macaron (who, by the way, is fantastic – get to the New Farm Markets or his Rocklea shop and try them!), and he also incorporated coffee from West End’s Cup Coffee. The speciality Guatemala blend (‘El Injerto’) was brewed through a very elaborate contraption, which was time intensive, thus getting a broader range of aromatics. Indeed, the coffee was very smooth and drinkable – I’d happily down it even without milk.
Angus instructed us to dunk a macaron in a cup of coffee, then eat it. WHAT. Finally, I could dunk in public without judgement. It was exactly how I’d hoped: the coffee injected the macaron with a spicy flavour, and made all the buttercream inside melt and ooze into my mouth. I mean, seriously. All this time I’ve been using my Tim Tams as a straw, when I could have been submerging it totally? I’ve been missing out.
After the macaron, we took a sip of Jose Cuervo Platino tequila. This was the good stuff – a family receipe, it’s a premium white tequila and only been on the market for a short time.
Finally, we tried second place (and Canvas owner) Marco’s creation – “Noble’s Consort”. Marco’s ritual had us eating white pepper and tequila sausage, then taking a sip of tequila, then a sip of an earthy, spicy fruit juice. I loved the sausage (that’s what she said), and the smoky flavours paired surprisingly well with the clean taste of the tequila. The spicy juice was my favourite – it had a wonderful peppery flavour, and had been chilled through an absinthe chamber.
During the night all of the guys kept talking about the idea of drinks and experiences. Rather than knocking back a cheap stubby of beer, it’s much more enjoyable to be involved in the theatrics of creating a truly amazing cocktail. Lately I have been getting over slamming $8 jugs (Momma T will be pleased), and have really started to appreciate just one or two quality drinks. Sadly, the rest of Brisbane has some catching up to do, but it is very reassuring to see that guys like Angus, Marco, and Adam are slowly leading the way.
Anyone who advocates public cookie dunking and quality drinks gets my vote.
641 Ann St, Fortitude Valley
(07) 3872 6600
16B Logan Road,. Woolloongabba
(07) 3891 2111
Many thanks to Splendid Communications, Reserve, Canvas, and Cloudland.