Workshop, pt. 3: prototyping

After looking over the rules and the format of the comp comes the time at which I've got to start making drinks. Yeah, I know. Crazy.

There are times when I set out with a clear idea of what I want to do with a cocktail, but there are just as many times that I come across the basic idea for a drink entirely by accident, and that works pretty well when serving customers or brainstorming a new cocktail list. But for competitions (particularly one like the Legacy comp), I usually have to set myself certain targets. Here's what I'm aiming for this time:

Easy to make: I want to be able to make this drink quickly. Part of the challenge of the Legacy competition is to get a drink widely adopted on menus, which will be tough to do if it takes five minutes to make each time.

Old school values meets new school know-how: the judges are looking for competitors to explain the inspiration behind their cocktail and that, in a nutshell, is mine.

With those two targets to aim, I grab a notebook and start throwing out a couple of ideas. I settle on a couple of things pretty early on. I'm tending towards making a daiquiri-style drink - what better way to celebrate an iconic rum brand than in an iconic rum cocktail? I also decide on honey as my sweetening agent, eventually going for a light Acacia honey.

Prototype 1 Part 1

25ml Bacardi Superior
1 barspoon Acacia Honey
1 dash Orange Bitters

Stir with ice; strain over cubed ice in rocks/old-fashioned glass.

Part 2

25ml Bacardi Superior
2 pieces Root Ginger
10ml Tuaca
10ml Lime Juice
1 dash Egg White

Shake with ice; strain into rocks/old-fashioned glass on top of part 1. Garnish with flamed cinnamon dust.

I don't end up making this one. I probably will, because there's a bunch of interesting stuff going on in there (maybe too much), but not right now because it fails on one of my stipulations. Imagine being asked for a two-part drink when you're four deep at the bar on a Saturday night, one part of which involves stirring down honey. Back to the drawing board, but there are things I take with me. I like the idea of the flamed cinnamon garnish, which will work well if I shake the drink with egg white to give it a base. I also like the combination of the honey with fresh ginger, and I take that as cue to start playing around with some more fresh ingredients.

I remember the stipulation that all ingredients must be "commonly available" in the competition rules, and bearing in mind I want something that's going to play well with both ginger and cinnamon, I end up turning towards chilis.

The thing that makes chilis hot is called capsaicin and one of its interesting properties is that it isn't soluble in water. It's why chilis burn no matter how much water you drink, and it lights up a little bulb in my head. I can use egg white to bind flavours to capsaicin, which will bind itself to the taste receptors in your mouth, which will - hopefully - enhance the finish of my cocktail. There are downsides to this plan. Firstly, I don't want to singe the palates of anyone who tastes the drink. Second, fresh chilis on a busy bar are the definition of an accident waiting to happen, especially those rich in capsaicin. So then, how to get some capsaicin into the drink without using fresh chilis? The answer is one of the most commonly stocked products behind any bar.

Tabasco Sauce. Any decent cocktail bar should be able to make a Bloody Mary, which means any decent cocktail bar should have Tabasco Sauce. All the benefits of chilis without the risk of rubbing non-water soluble irritants into your eyes. With the capsaicin question settled, the rest of my recipes falls into place fairly quickly.

50ml Bacardi Superior
1 barspoon Acacia Honey
2 pieces Root Ginger
25ml (freshly squeezed)
Pink Grapefruit Juice
1 dash Tabasco Sauce
1 dash Egg White

Muddle ginger in base of shaker; add honey and grapefruit juice and stir until honey dissolves. Add other ingredients and shake with ice. Fine-strain into a chilled martini/coupette glass, and garnish with a sprinkle of flamed cinnamon dust.

Now I have a recipe. All I need is a name.

Posted on October 17, 2008 and filed under Mixology, Workshop.