Taste of Vail enthusiasts get their drink on at Get Your Frost Off
VAIL CO, Colorado
Take one brand-new, snow-inspired bar, add a handful of talented bartenders and around 70 thirsty party-goers, a splash of chocolate and a touch of music – blend well and serve.
Thursday at Taste of Vail was a marathon of food and drink highlighted by the Lamb Cook-Off and culminating with the ninth-annual bartender mixoff at the Frost bar at The Sebastian. Six bartenders representing some of Vail’s best restaurants heckled one another good-naturedly as they prepared their entries for the mixology competition and the room started filling up with people.
“There will be a winner,” said Joel Rheaume, of Terra Bistro, prior to the start of the competition, “but it’s more about the feeling, the vibe of Taste of Vail.”
And the vibe at Frost was energetic. Cocktail enthusiasts roamed from table to table, sampling drinks as the DJ cranked up bouncy beats, enticing some to create an impromptu dance party at one end of the bar that grew as the night progressed.
A panel of five longtime locals judged the competition based on three criteria: use of product, presentation and taste. Individual scores were averaged to crown a winner.
The judges’ favorite was the Taste of Terra, created by Rheaume. It made use of all four of the liquors and liqueurs provided – 10 Cane Rum, Grand Marnier, Hennessey and Belvedere Vodka – fused with Regans orange bitters and lemon juice.
The Red Mango Sensation, a fruity combination of 10 Cane Rum, Grand Marnier, Hennessey and mango puree created by Robert Zamenic, of the Fireside Bar at the Vail Cascade, landed in a three-way tie for second with The Fitz at Manor Vail’s pomegranate daiquiri and the Awsmo from Blu’s.
“My personal favorite was the Red Mango Sensation,” said Carole Lalena, of Edwards, one of the judges. “It had a lovely presentation and was tasty all the way through to the rind on the mango.”
The Awsmo, as its nomenclature suggests, was a spin on the traditional cosmopolitan, with the addition of Agwa, a coca flavored liqueur that’s recently been introduced to restaurants and liquor stores in the valley by Scotty Moises, a mix master at Blu’s.
“The Awsmo is a combination of silky Belvedere Vodka, the rich flavor of Grand Marnier, the tropical flavor of Agwa, homemade orange simple syrup and fresh lime,” Moises said.
Though the cocktails were the stars of the evening, Sebastian pastry chef Dale Besimone’s inspired dessert tastings managed to steal some of the thunder. Glacial-looking glass dishes were stacked with offerings ranging from a tart jellied white chocolate mojito to a decadent chocolate custard garnished with gold leaf.
Chocolate and marshmallow lollipops in glass vases adorned the tables, and items disappeared faster than the servers could replenish them.
Home-field advantage was given to Jeff Marcus, of Frost, who whipped up his Thai Clouds, blending coconut milk with ginger and lemongrass, Grand Marnier and 10 Cane Rum, garnished with a stick of sugared ginger. The drink was definitely cloud-like – smooth and frothy.
In the end, attendees chose La Tour’s Ultimate Blueberry for the people’s choice award.
“It’s not too sweet and has a good flavor,” said Steven Ess, of Edwards. “That blueberry stays on your palate, but it has a clean aftertaste.”
The drink, poured by La Tour bartender Cody Kennedy, started with Belvedere Vodka and added fresh mint and blueberries and jasmine-blueberry simple syrup.
After the winners were announced, people slowly and reluctantly made their way out the door, grabbing lollipops and last-minute drink tastes on the way.
“I think it was a great event,” Lalena said.
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