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Best absinthe cocktail competition

Prague's La Casa de la Havana Vieja bar on Sunday 18.3.2012 hosted our first bartending competition for the best absinthe-based cocktail.

The 13 professional bartenders who attended were given free rein in the preparation of their cocktails.  The only stipulations of the competition were that the drink had to be original (a new and previously unused recipe) and include real, distilled St. Antoine Absinthe. Otherwise, everything else was down to the taste and style of the competing bartenders who took up the task with care and professionalism. Included among the items available for their use were syrups, dried herbs, and infusions as well as homemade Absinthe chocolates, jellies, cookies and foam created out of Becherovka. Yes, watching them at work left me shocked and pleasantly awed in my role as one of the members of the jury.

In total the jury was comprised of three members, and I was quite pleased to be judging with professionals such as Ondřej Abrahámek of Red Rabbit bar and Jan Braniš of Bugsy's Bar. The drinks were rated on the basis of their quality, taste and smell (5 - 50 points), presentation and appearance (0 - 20 points), communication and originality (0 - 20 points) and up to 10 additional points could be earned by each competitor from a test of their knowledge. In all the maximum number of possible points totaled 100.

Among the competing bartenders were: Tomáš Melzer, Jakub Vinš (Bugsy's Bar), Lukáš Mihalko (Red Rabbit), Jarda Janoušek (Black Angel's), David Hečko (James Dean Bar), Daniel Prokeš (La Casa de la Havana), Kryštof Hordina (Jewel Cafe Bar), Ladislav Glaser (Zapa Bar), Vítězslav Cirok (Bugsy's Bar), Richard Vandlík (Red Rabbit), Milan Zaleš (Bugsy's Bar), Adnan Al-Madhagi (Black Angel's) a Eduard Ondráček (ex-Black Angel's).

The difference between 1st and 3rd place was a mere 7 points, demonstrating the comparable level and quality of the competing bartenders. All of their drinks were amazing, but we could acknowledge only the top three.

Winner of the St. Antoine 2012 bartending competition was Edward Ondráček, in second place stood Jarda Janoušek from Black Angel's and in third place came Vítězslav Cirok from Bugsy's Bar. Congratulations all!

Jarda Janoušek also won the award of Absinthe God, which was presented for best performance, style and overall charisma. Well done!

And now the winning drinks:

The Fairy Virgin by Eduard Ondráček

2 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
3 tablespoons cherry preserves
6 cl homemade Kirsch liquor or Žufánek Cherry Liqueur
3 drops of Bob's Vanilla Bitters
half an egg white, dash of sweetened lemon juice

For the preserves slowly boil 300 g cherries plus 200g of sugar with a little water and one third of a split vanilla pod. Reduce and leave to cool, sprinkling with Cherry liqueur to help preserve.

Prepare an absinthe glass by applying a layer of crushed cherry-flavored hard candies and chill with ice. In a seperate glass filled with ice add 2 cl St. Antoine Absinthe.

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker muddle 3 tablespoons of the marmalade with 1 cl of sugar syrup, add the one-half egg white, 6 cl homemade Kirsch liqueur, a few drops of lemon juice, and the Bob's bitters. Stir gently with a swizzle stick before adding a large scoop of ice and vigorously shaking for a minimum of 30 seconds. Open the shaker and strain the contents into the chilled absinthe glass. Over a small piece of ice strain a layer of the chilled St. Antoine Absinthe. Garnish with a small cherry twig in bud.

Bar Fly Flip by Jarda Janoušek

2 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
2 cl Martell VSOP
1 cl fresh lemon juice
1.5 cl sugar syrup
2 drops Peychaud's bitters
1 egg yolk
fresh pineapple

Combine ingredients and shake vigorously without ice. Garnish with Becherovka foam and dried pineapple.

After Five by Vítězslav Cirok

3 cl Cassis Dijon
2 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
1 cl fresh lemon juice
3 cl egg white
1 bar spoon of vanilla sugar
top with Moet & Chandon Brut. Garnish with absinthe cookies.

The remaining cocktails from the competition, which I would happily order any time.

Bar and Books by Adnan Al-Madhagi

3 cl Luxardo maraschino
2 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
2 cl fresh lemon juice
2 cl homemade jasmine syrup
1/2 of a green apple
Garnish with rose petals and a slice of apple.

Green Butterfly by Milan Zaleš

2 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
1 cl Chartreuse Verte
2 bar spoon of vanilla sugar
1.5 cl fresh lemon juice
Sprig of fresh tarragon
Egg white
Shake well and serve in an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with clean egg shell and fresh tarragon.

Cucumber La Fée by Richard Vandlík

2.5 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
1.5 cl Babička vodka
3 basil leaves
3 mint leaves
Cucumber seed
Rosemary smoke
1 cl simple syrup
1/2 lime
Egg white
Shake well and serve in an absinthe glass. Top with ginger ale and garnish with rosemary and lemon balm.

St. Caffé by Ladislav Glaser

2 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
4 cl Eldorado Rum 12 y.o. infused with coffee beans
2 cl homemade spice syrup
2 bar spoons of mascarpone
1 egg white
2 dashes chocolate bitters
2 cl lemon juice
Shake well and serve in a cocktail bowl rimmed with a mix of spice and chocolate. Garnish with star anise.

Pierre de Fée by Kryštof Hordina

5 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
3 cl chocolate syrup
bitters de Absinthe
blackberries
fennel, anise, basil
Shake well and serve in v-shape glass topped with basil and lime foam.

Absinthe Lemonade by Daniel Prokeš

4 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
1.5 cl Yellow Chartreuse
1 cl Belvoir Elderflower cordial
1 bar spoon of dried chamomile flowers
Shake well and serve in a highball glass, top with (cca 10cl) Fever Tree Lemonade. Garnish with mint and lime.

Forbidden Taste by David Hečko

2 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
2 cl fresh lime juice
2 cl fresh orange juice
2 cl Orgeat syrup
2 cl egg white
1.5 cl Campari
1 bar spoon of dried chamomile flowers
Shake well. Garnish with a honey-star anise foam, almonds and orange zest.

Absinthe After Dark by Lukáš Mihalko

2 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
2 cl Drambue
1 cl honey
1 Ristretto-sized coffee
2 cl cream
1 cl milk
Serve in a glass cup with an absinthe chocolate on the side.

L'absinthe d'amour by Jakub Vinš

2 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
2 cl white créme de menthe
2 cl cream
2 bar spoons of sugar
1 cl fresh lime
3 cl Belvoir lime and lemon grass
1 fresh egg white
Serve in a Sazerac glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

Mai Mystique by Tomáš Melzer

3 cl St. Antoine Absinthe
2 cl Cointreau
1 cl Orgeat sirup
1 cl sugar sirup
4 cl fresh pineapple
2 cl fresh lime
1 cl egg white
Serve in a Mai Tai glass. Garnish with mint, star anise and absinthe preserves.

Thanks again to all the competitors for their participation, the bar La Casa de la Havana Vieja for organizing and providing their beautiful space and also to all who came to the absinthe seminar and listened to two hours of an hopefully interesting history of this legendary drink.

My apologies to the bartenders that I didn't manage to photograph and post here. I wasn't able to observe, taste and photograph all at the same time. The photos taken by Jakub Dvořák will definitely be posted on the Facebook page for St. Antoine Absinthe.

Martin Žufánek

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Our family business, ZUSY Ltd., was founded in 2000 by Marcela and Josef Zufanek along with their sons Martin, Josef and Jan. Our company's mission is the creation of a traditional fruit distillery specializing in the production of all-natural spirits and liqueurs, including Slivovitz, Pear brandy, St.Antoine, La Grenouille and L'Ancienne


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