Spirited Award finalist! This one is for the bartenders.

Cocktails_for_a_Crowd_COVEROver the Memorial Day weekend, I received some particularly exciting news: Cocktails for a Crowd was named a Spirited Award finalist in the “Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book” category. The awards – part of the Tales of the Cocktail conference held in July – are a very big deal within the drinks industry, honoring bars, bartenders, brand ambassadors, and writers/authors from all over the world.

Though I’ve attended the awards before (this will be my 7th time at Tales!), this is the first time I’ve been been a finalist. And it’s particularly meaningful that the nod is for Cocktails for a Crowd, because the book has its roots at Tales – where I first saw really good drinks being batched in enormous quantities – and incorporates advice and recipes from so many bartenders I’ve met there over the years.

Take a look at the full list of finalists – I’m up against some hard-hitters and winning this is a long shot (although wouldn’t that just be the alcoholic frosting on an already booze-soaked cake?!?).

So I’m going to go ahead and say thank you now to the bartenders who contributed recipes and insight for Cocktails for a Crowd:  Jason Asher, Scott Baird, Corey Bunnewith, Martin Cate, Kevin Diedrich, Tasha Garcia-Gibson, Charles Joly, Ryan Maybee, Jim Meehan, Stephen Savage, Colin Shearn, and Kelley Swenson. Many of these fine folks are up for awards themselves this year, and at the awards ceremony, it’s for them I will be cheering myself most hoarse.

Finally – a new cocktail technique?

Compared to cooking, where new techniques are seemingly infinite, the cocktail playbook is limited to a few, relatively simple moves:  Pour. Shake. Strain. You get the picture.

So you’ll understand why I get excited to find someone doing something new, like Ryan Maybee of Manifesto in Kansas City, MO. 

Initially, I was pointed in his direction because of his Smokin’ Choke cocktail; he was among the first to use a “smoking gun” to quick-smoke liquor. And he was smart enough to make a video, which PolyScience glommed on to, making Ryan the poster child for the product. (Contrary to my initial perception, the videos are not created by or sponsored by PolyScience. They just knew a good thing when they saw one).

So what other cool tricks does Ryan have up his sleeve? Using eyedroppers to drizzle a spicy float on top of a cocktail. Although I know that eyedroppers are not a new tool in the bartender arsenal – they’re sometimes used to dose a drink with bitters or aromatic tinctures – I have never seen it used to add heat to the top of a drink. It’s different.

The drink itself, called “The Tempest,” is a riff on the classic Dark & Stormy, and it’s shaken to create a foam on the top of the drink. Then he drizzles a five-pepper-infused tequila on top of the drink. “It gives just a whiff of pepperiness,” he explained to me. “It’s the first thing you smell.”

Ryan was kind enough to share the recipe with me. I have to admit, for the quintet of infused peppers, I worry about infusing two habaneros, even roasted habs, in a bottle for a full week. A week! I’ve done hab infusions that are searingly hot in just a couple of short hours. A week seems a little insane with habs, although perfectly reasonable for bell peppers and poblano peppers. But then again, you’re just getting about a teaspoon’s worth, not a full two-ounce pour of this firewater.

The Tempest  (courtesy of Ryan Maybee, Manifesto)

2oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum

1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice

1 oz homemade ginger syrup

Eyedropper of 5 pepper-infused Tequila (recipe below)

Combine Rum, lime juice, and ginger syrup in mixing glass, add ice.  Shake vigorously for 15 seconds.  Strain into Collins glass with ice.  Using an eyedropper, drizzle a few drops of 5 pepper infused Tequila over the top of the foam.  Garnish with a lime wheel and piece of homemade candied ginger.

 5 pepper infused Tequila

Using Blanco or Silver Tequila, infuse 1 750ml bottle with 1 sliced Green Bell Pepper, 1 sliced Red Bell pepper, 1 sliced yellow bell pepper, 1 sliced Poblano, and 2 small roasted Habaneros.  On all sliced bell peppers, remove the hearts and seeds.  Infuse for 1 week in a cool, dark place, shaking up occasionally.