Rule of thumb: If asked to sit on the judging panel of a cocktail competition, don't hesitate to accept the invitation. This blogger recently had the honor of helping spirits scholars Camper English and Aaron Smith (owner, 15 Romolo) judge the 42Below Cocktail World Cup regional finals. Our task was to pick two cocktail-slinging competitors from a field of 10 hopefuls. Those two will then compete in the national finals in New York City, and from there three winners will compete as Team U.S.A. in a week-long competition in New Zealand (envision a far boozier Olympic Village).
All contestants for the S.F. regionals had to incorporate one of the myriad 42Below vodkas in their cocktail entry, along with other spirits and homespun additions. One theme throughout the night was the use of honey-flavored vodka, which offered a bee sting of sweetness while preserving the dryness of the finished drinks. Recipes highlighted the DIY tendencies of S.F.'s bartending scene, with ingredients such as homemade lavender-ginger reduction, toasted coconut-infused sherry, and cocoa-nib turbinado syrup.