We recently returned from a whirlwind tour of Amsterdam with the finalists of the Damrak Gin Mixology Challenge. This bartending competition, organized by Tastemakers International and Lucas Bols Amsterdam 1575, challenged California bartenders to create original cocktails using Damrak gin.
The finalists represented a wide range of California bars and bartenders: Amanda Washington (pictured left) of classic-inspired Rye in San Francisco; Manuel Hinojosa (pictured below) at the intriguingly named Walnut Creek Yacht Club in land-locked Walnut Creek; Alicia Walton from San Francisco's Martuni's; Spencer Simons of West County Grill in Sebastopol; Elad Benisti of J Lounge in Los Angeles; Cache Bouren of Fahrenheit Ultra in San Jose; and L.A.'s Monica Lee Burland, formerly of Edison and now at The Belmont and Element. (Micah Wilder, a finalist from San Francisco's Bambuddah Lounge, was unable to attend.)
Finalists flew to Amsterdam to tour the city and the House of Bols. At the Bols Bartending Academy, Bols global brand ambassador Philip Duff presented a one-day curriculum of tasting, mixology and bar skills. There, the finalists competed in a mix-off, forming teams to transform surprise ingredients into original cocktails. The winning team was Elad Benisti from J Lounge, guest Matt Olivas from LA's Good Luck Bar and Hollie Schulze of Cattani Imports. Their cocktail, the Nice Rak, included Damrak gin, fresh lemon juice, muddled tempranillo and hot peppers.
This recipe from Spencer Simons is another great expression of grapes combined with gin (this was the recipe that got him to Amsterdam).
The Sweet Here After
2 oz. Damrak gin
2 oz. Navarro white gewürtztraminer grape juice
2 dashes orange bitters
Splash of brut Champagne
Shake ingredients and strain into chilled glass. Add a float of brut Champagne.
Photographs by Reinier van der Aart for Lucas Bols
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