You were voted No. 1 in North Carolina for Absolut Vodka’s search for the Best Bloody Mary in America and competed in the national finals in New York City. What’s the secret for your winning Bloody Mary?
I guess the secret to my recipe is balance.
I worked on it for a long time until I felt I had a good balance of acidity with savory, spicy, salty and sweet.
As far as secret ingredients go, it would definitely be the roasted five-pepper blend. I fire-roasted jalapeño, poblano, Anaheim, red bell and red chili peppers. By itself, the blend is mostly smoke and heat flavor, but combined with the rest of the mix, it breathes life into the drink. That’s why I named the cocktail after it.
What was it like competing in New York City among the seven other finalists?
The competition in New York City was an amazing experience, and I was honored to be a part of it. The seven other competitors were from all over the country, and we all shared the same passion for our Bloody Marys.
Once we were all set up and the event began, time flew by. Before we knew it, three hours had passed and almost 500 Fire Roasted Marys had been served.
It was so much fun! I’m definitely going to try and make it again next year.
What classic cocktails have stood the test of time?
I think when you talk about classic cocktails, there are two distinctions: Prohibition era and post-World War II.
Prohibition-era cocktails, like the Old Fashioned, the Sidecar and Sazerac, have all proven their durability over time. Post-World War II brings us classics like the Cape Cod, Margarita and Piña Colada.
I think these will be around for a long time, as well.
What cocktail(s) do you think will become the new classics?
This is an awesome time to be a bartender. There is a wealth of info about what’s trending in this industry at our fingertips.
Bartenders are more connected than ever, and the sharing of ideas is pushing our craft forward faster and faster. The immense range and availability of ingredients and techniques is opening doors for a plethora of modern classic cocktails.
Time will always be the judge, but cocktails like the Cosmopolitan, Lemon Drop Martini, and Dark and Stormy are well on their way.
What cocktails do you recommend for this holiday season?
The holidays tend to make me think of warm ciders and Champagne cocktails.
One thing I like is having a pot of warm spiced cider on a burner behind the bar. The aroma and flavor fill the air and really make it feel festive. I like to add either a nice bourbon or caramel vodka to mine.
Another holiday tradition for me is a classic Champagne cocktail. I soak a sugar cube in bitters, then add the bubbly. I like mine with a strawberry.
— As told to Carl Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org