A Taste of the RAMMYs and South of the Border

JP Caceres’s Pisco Sour honors the MOTAC logo

Although World Cocktail Week may be over, the spirit of great American cocktails lives on. The excitement for Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s (RAMW) 2012 RAMMYs began to build as this year’s nominees for Best Mixology Program met for a private cocktail tasting Monday night at Mike Isabella’s Graffiato. Each nominee crafted a unique cocktail for the event representative of their style and program. This year’s nominees included Duane Sylvestre (Bourbon Steak), Greg Engert (ChurchKey), Adam Bernbach (Estadio), Dan Searing (Room 11), and Todd Thrasher (EatGoodFood Group). Guests enjoyed a brief intimate gathering with four cocktails and a selection of charcuterie provided by Graffiato, including Isabella’s signature blistered sweet peppers. With only an hour or two to sample each cocktail, the hors d’oeuvres were welcomed by some of DC’s foodie finest to offset the ample amounts of alcohol.

Upon tasting, there was a distinct and unplanned theme in three of the four cocktail creations – grapefruit. The bright citrus notes provided a hint of summer on an otherwise drearyMonday night. Other highlights included the unexpected peppercorn syrup and absinthe in Engert’s Farmhouse Punch, aromatic saffron in Bernbach’s Dia de Discanso, a light-bodied Belgian Tripel and cayenne pepper in Searing’s Chaos Theory, and the bubbles and rye whiskey in Thrasher’s 42 and Cloudy. Recipes for each mixologist’s creations are included below.

Each cocktail will be available to sample at their respective nominated restaurant from May 18 – June 20. In addition to enjoying award-nominated beverages, guests will also receive an entry to win two tickets to the RAMMY Awards Gala on June 24th with each purchase.

Sylvestre gives an autograph to a cocktail fan

Noticeably absent from the cocktail tasting (but for good cause) was Bourbon Steak’s Duane Sylvestre, who joined the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) for an education in South of the Border cocktails across town at the Four Seasons. JP Caceres of Let’s Imbibe, Inc. and Jamie MacBain, also of Bourbon Steak, joined Sylvestre for a historical and practical look at several classic cocktails, including mojitos, caipirinhas, and margaritas

The session was hosted by Philip Greene, co-founder of MOTAC and author of the upcoming To Have and Have Another – A Hemingway Cocktail Companion (November 2012, Penguin Books). Many may know that Hemingway enjoyed a cocktail or two in his day, but Green provides a more in-depth look at Hemingway’s life and the characters in his books by means of the cocktails that they enjoy. The book will detail the background on each drink and recipes for creating them at home.

After an initial introduction, Sylvestre took the floor and fashioned a pair of rum drinks, a classic mojito and a swizzled falernum cocktail. He detailed the differences in rums by region, ranging from English rum, which is aromatic and rich in nature, to Spanish rums, invoking hints of vanilla and caramel. As he mixed, Sylvestre continued by describing the different aging techniques that produce different varieties of rum from the unaged light to richer wood-aged dark rum. Attendees were encouraged to enjoy the clean, aromatic, and rich nature of the spirits by adding water to taste and to get mojado. Sylvestre closed with a cheeky, Let’s get wet! You can quote me on that.

Caceres prepares to create more traditional cocktails

Caceres further enlightened the crowd on the perhaps lesser known cachaça (pronounced ca-cha-za) and pisco. Cachaça, made from fermented cane juice, is primarily produced in Brazil, where 1.5 billion liters are consumed each year, according to Caceres. Using the juice of 1 lime, 1 oz. simple syrup, and 2 oz. cachaça, he created a traditional caipirinha, followed by a frothy pisco sour. The cocktail was complimented by the MOTAC logo, a single martini glass, with angostura bitters atop the beverage’s foam. Caceres revealed the simple tip that enhanced an already stunning presentation – he cut an image from a simple plastic container lid and added the colorful bitters liberally.

Closing the presentation was MacBain, who fostered the classic cocktail theme but finished with a twist. He explained the differences in tequilas ranging from blanco (or, plata, which is aged for a mere 2 months, through extra añejo, a new classification as of 2006 that is aged for more than three years.

MacBain gets “jigger” with it while creating La Paloma

Continuing with the inadvertent grapefruit theme, MacBain crafted a characteristic Paloma, featuring a housemade grapefruit soda. The only non-traditional cocktail of the evening came from MacBain’s We’ve Got the Beet, a play on a margarita that featured beet juice, Partido Reposado, agave, Averna, and lime. The flavored margarita was a surprising finish to an informative evening that left several guests exclaiming, This was the best seminar yet!

For more information on the Museum of the American Cocktail, including upcoming seminars in DC on July 11th and August 9th, please visit http://www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org.

Cocktail Recipes

Farmhouse Punch mixed by Greg Engert (ChurchKey)

.75 ounces vodka

.25 or less ounces of absinthe

.5 ounces lemon juice

1 ounce grapefruit juice

.5 ounce peppercorn syrup


Top with Rayon Vert

Ladle from a punch bowl with a 5 lb. block of ice

Dia de Descanso Mixed by Adam Bernbach (Estadio)

2 parts saffron & grapefruit syrup

1 part Beefeater 24 Gin

1 part lime juice

3 parts sparkling wine

Garnish with limes & mint

Ladle from a punch bowl with a 5 lb. block of ice

Chaos Theory Mixed by Dan Searing (Room 11)

.75 ounces Citra hop-infused Sauza Hornitos plata

.5 ounces grapefruit juice

.5 ounces simple syrup (1:1)

2 ounces Belgian Tripel

Shake first three ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe, top with Tripel Karmeliet and garnish with a light sprinkle of cayenne pepper.

42 and Cloudy (Punch Bowl Cocktail) Mixed by Todd Thrasher

6 ounces Cruzan rum

6 ounces honey flavored vodka

6 ounces passion vodka

6 ounces brandy

15 ounces sauvignon blanc

10 ounces green tea

5 ounces water

28 ounces passion fruit juice

Juice of 2 lemons

1/3 cup of luxardo cherries

Champagne to taste

Ladle from a punch bowl with a 5 lb. block of ice

Dining in DC’s newest contributor, Lindsay Hovermale is a DC area local funding her dining and concert habits as a research associate for drug and alcohol studies, apprentice mixologist at Dirty Martini, and Ph. D student at the University of Maryland. She has a voracious appetite for quality and passion in food and in life. Lindsay enjoys all things bacon, bourbon, local music, running, and recovering from running injuries. She prefers her eggs poached.

Look for more posts from Lindsay to get information on the special event and music scenes in DC and the surrounding areas. Follow her on Twitter @theycallmeHOVE and her forthcoming blog, Hunger Hierarchy.

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