Monday evening, food and beverage staffers from the metro Phoenix area gathered at Revolver Lounge to cheer on competitors in Patron Spirits' Patron XO mixology event. There to participate as a judge, I knew I had to familiarize myself with the flavor of the main ingredient before the competition began.
I sipped a shot of Patron XO, a blend of premium tequila and coffee essence -- my first taste of the liqueur. Dryer than the sweet coffee liquors, the taste of coffee was more roasted bean than brewed coffee essence. I could have downed the whole glass, but held off in anticipation of the mixed cocktails coming my way.
My fellow judges, Trudy Thomas, from The Camelback Inn and Jason Girard, Mixologist and Arizona Spirits Specialist for Patron gave me a quick tutorial in scoring bartender and drinks in the competition. Criteria for awarding points are the same as for a food competition- presentation, technique, quality/taste, and ingredient knowledge and use.
Nine competitors approached the bar to shake, stir, and (yes!) set the stage on fire. Clint Manning, (Canteen Modern Tequila Bar) was first up with his Patron Macchiato served in a cut crystal martini glass and garnished with 2 coffee beans and a star anise. Nikki Kotantoulas (Mabel's on Main) followed with Cafe Con Pequette, earning praise for her chocolate-hazelnut block ice.
Matt McCullough (Revolver Lounge) chose to highlight the liqueur's coffee flavor with mango and black raspberry in his Chocolate Cafe. Samantha Dickerson (Cowboy Ciao) added heat to the competition using sambal olek in her mix, and a garnish of sugar-chili powder.
Next up, Dame Chocolate, Richie Moe's (Citizen Public House) flaming tribute to the daytime soap. Richie showed some skill as he torched the Austrian Rum and Patron XO based drink, pouring it between two pitchers. As the flame crawled up his wrist and dropped to the floor, Richie stayed focused and calmly finished. A close shave or should I say a close depilation?
Heat in the form of habanera simple syrup spiked Mike Bunker's (The Mission) Spicy Strawberry Fizz. Eric Carfagnini (Culinary Dropout) included a Stout Guinness reduction and barrel aged whisky bitters in his Kentuxian Cafe.
"Mister Anarchy" (AZ88) mixed Damiana, brandy and bitters with the key ingredient for his Mayan Love Goddess. Shandy on the Spot, Clint Spotleson's (Jade Bar) entry with Rapisado, crème mescal and citrus soda finished off the night.
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MC Jason Asher's (Magnum Jazz and Cigar Lounge) questions and commentary kept the audience engaged as they cheered the contestants on. The winners of the competition: 1st place- Richie Moe for Dame Chocolate, 2nd place-Eric Carfagnini for Kentexian Cafe, and 3rd place-Matt McCullough for Chocolate Cafe.
Heading to the bar, I heeded the advice I got after tasting a wide variety of cocktails. How to avoid the sluggish feeling tomorrow? Order a single spirit drink straight up, over ice.