Friday 27 April, 2012

Judging Campari Apertivos

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  Unlike virtually every bartender on the planet (apparently), I’m not really a “Negroni person.” I can appreciate a well-made one (it’s all about the balance, and carefully chosen gin and amaro), however, I don’t consider it a favorite. But it’s because I’m not on Team Negroni that I was most intrigued by the offer […]




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I'll have what Jessica's having. Make it a double.

 

Unlike virtually every bartender on the planet (apparently), I’m not really a “Negroni person.” I can appreciate a well-made one (it’s all about the balance, and carefully chosen gin and amaro), however, I don’t consider it a favorite.

But it’s because I’m not on Team Negroni that I was most intrigued by the offer from Naomi Schimek (Spare Room) and Tricia Alley (Southern Wine & Spirits) to help judge a LA-regional Campari apertivo contest. Because here in the US, it seems like bartenders have barely scratched the surface of Campari’s uses beyond the popular Italian cocktail, and don’t have any idea how it’s mixed in countries like Brazil, where it’s actually far more popular than in the US.

Gladstone, Kupchinsky, Djang, Stolte. Also available for swimsuit competitions.

On April 8, some of LA’s best bartenders gathered at Aiden Demarest’s NEAT bar in Glendale, where co-judges David Kupchinsky (Eveleigh bar mgr), blogger Daniel Djang (Thirsty in LA), Home Bar Basics author Dave Stolte and I were semi-sequestered at the far end of the room away from the ten competitors, so that we wouldn’t know whose drinks we were judging.

Results were mixed. As we judges discussed amongst ourselves, many of the entries didn’t seem to reflect a strong understanding of the concept of ‘apertivo’ or aperitif, which traditionally is a short drink served before a meal to stimulate the appetite (the name is derived from the Latin verb meaning ‘to open’). It is only expected to last 2-3 sips, and is typically wine-based, probably so that if wine is enjoyed with the meal, it won’t clash. Champagne is actually considered an apertif in this sense, and other good bases are sherry, fino, white port, madeira and vermouth. Dubonnet, calvados, pastis, cognac also appear. You get the idea.

Many of the entrants however, offered long drinks and cocktails that really didn’t fulfill the concept. Still, the USBG judging format actually doesn’t weigh sticking to the assignment very heavily. Taste is by far the dominant point-earner, which makes winning rather straightforward, despite the number of aspects under consideration.

On the plus side, many of the garnishes were creative and original, most of all winner Juan Alvarez’s darling little Easter-inspired kumquat baskets with pomegranate "eggs." The complex, fruity, vegetal, sweet tart and cleansing tastes of his Shawn’s Cup matched it for originality. Nicely done.

 

Still not sure what the message is of this Salma Hayek ad. Might require further study.

 


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