We recently attended Effen Vodka‘s Art of Design Cocktail Contest in SF and our very own Jonas Halpren was one of the three judges, along with USBG President, Dave Nepove, and Wine Fashoinista, Mary Orlin.
In a very cool space at the Terra Gallery in SOMA, Effen gathered 10 Bay Area mixologists from near and far. The mixologists were then paired into teams of two (not quite sure how the pairing occurred—secretly planned twosomes or random couplings) and then sent off on a Master Chef type odyssey where each team had to choose from 5 ingredients on a table. For full disclosure, we are Master Chef junkies and were pretty jazzed by this random turn of events, although we were bummed that Jonas didn’t get to engage in Gordon Ramseyeque behavior in his review of the cocktails (oh, or maybe, it’s Joe Bastianich, the one guy that makes Gordon Ramsey look nice). Actually, Jonas is too nice for that and I can’t see him acting like Gordon or Joe but you never know.
The mixologists made their selections and headed back to their table where they not only had to craft a cocktail using regular, Cucumber or Black Cherry Effen Vodka but then had to batch it and serve it to hundreds of thirsty San Franciscans demanding their libations. The thirsty masses then had to vote for their favorite drinks using a complex pebble system. Wow—it was like a Master Chef ultimate challenge!
I watched and tried each of the drinks a couple of times. All in all, they were pretty good, if a bit uneven, tasting slightly different each time I tested them (but what can you do when you have to develop a drink on the fly and then serve it to hundreds of people). Apparently, the judges expected this and tasted each drink a couple of times before crowning the winner.
The winning bartenders ended up representing two of my favorite bars, Brandon Josie of 15 Romolo and Susan Eggert of Forbidden Island whose Little Briar Rose combined Effen Black Cheery Vodka, Grand Clasico, Limoncello, Lemon Juice, simple syrup , black walnut bitters and pinch of rosemary. Get the whole recipe here.
Over all it was a tough competition with many worthy competitors mixing some very creative and tasty drinks.
The crowd had a great time exploring the various artist works, tasting cocktails and voting with glass pebbles.
In addition to the master mixologist drinks being served, Effen was also serving some of their own creations, including a Cucumber Vodka, ginger drink with a kick that I could easily become addicted to.
Oh yeah, and I also learned that “Effen” supposedly means “smooth” in Dutch but I am sure the folks behind Effen don’t mind the Urban Dictionary definition either. On a serious note, Effen was created by bartenders for bartenders. Its easy-grip rubber bottle sleeve also insulates the bottle to keep it cool. Effen was created using a 125-year-old Dutch wheat recipe.