All August long we invited the public to try a signature cocktail from eight great cocktail bars in town. Here’s what our food writer, Emily Deming, had to say.
Adelaide’s El Camino (WINNER)
Like a trio of piquant sauces alongside a plate of oysters, this cocktail serves spicy, sweet, and salty in discreet swallows which honour the tequila in the glass. This is a big drink. Not in size but in the taste territory it covers. This is a Cormac McCarthy novel: stripped down, sere, western and over-the-top pulp indulgence combined. A fresh sweetness inside the spice brings to mind watermelon juice and hanging chillies. Ruthlessly good, this drink can burn my lips any day.
Blue’s Gin Punch with a Twist
This is well served in a tall lemonade glass, as it improves with the drinking of it. The alcohol is disguised as refreshment and the character of the essential oils from the Orgeat are unleashed only once you have adjusted to the overall punch-berry flavour. Pretty (not gorgeous) on the eyes and in the mouth.
Chinched’s Cilantro Margurita (Runner-up)
Always one of the best drinks in town. In a bar fight, the El Camino wins, and this IS a bar fight …but in a battle of wits? Wearing a slim cut suit? The Cilantro Margarita is the Bruce Banner to The El Camino’s Hulk. Picking a winner between these two tequila cocktails is like picking between Daniel Craig’s James Bond and Toshiro Mifune’s ronin in Yojimbo. The one with a bit more meat on it picked up the win, but the lean and even sour/spice of Chinched’s infused tequila is superb.
The Club’s Alcohol Slushi
Someone has finally made the iconic New Orleans’ “Hurricane” a decent drink. The original was sticky and harsh, this slushie is mellowed out, and classed right the hell up. Cold, thick, and fun; the cucumber lime flavour was mild and tangy. The Club’s Alcohol Slushie is better than the splash pad on a hot day.
Magnum and Steins’ Starburst Martini
This is a sweet drink with a bitter after-taste. Kirkland cranberry “juice blend” works best in a red plastic keg cup, though even at an under-aged kegger this one might get left half drunk on the tiki bar.
Mallard Cottage’s Newfie 76
A glass of translucent tangerine. Sweet and bitter with vegetal undertones (fennel bitters!). Though the base is lemon and champagne, it reads on your tongue like the anticipated clementine in the toe of the stocking. It is a winter holiday drink despite its ingredients. It would complement and elevate christmas bread (which can be said of few things).
Merchant Tavern’s Eastsider
The simplest of all entrants. This is not concocted so much as well chosen, like a beautiful house painted just the right shade of white and sporting no clutter on the mantel, this is perfectly crisp. If a drink of hard alcohol can clear your head and cleanse your body and breath, this is it. The tart lime pricks your tongue like fizzy water but the hidden nip of simple syrup and a premium vodka keeps it smooth.
Reluctant Chef’s Tetley Tea-ni
This comes at you looking like some frou-frou mochaccino, but it is ALL martini. It is a different drink with your eyes closed vs open. The bartender uses a bit of thunder and lightning in the shaking, making miscible what was twain. The end result is layered yet not weighty. The strong brewed drop of Tetley and the citrus flavours hold their own with the gin remaining in control. Go get a cuppa of your own.