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Two Notable Schenectady Cocktails

March 8, 2019

It’s Friday! You made it! We’re almost to the weekend. But hey, it’s five o’clock somewhere.

Sensible people might wait until work is done on Friday before they head out to a bar and order a cocktail or two. Say what you will, but they are a delicious way to unwind. Sure, you can meditate, exercise, or do breathing exercises. Those are great for relaxing too. Heck, they may even be better for reducing stress and easing tension.

Still, at the end of the week, I’m pouring a drink and leaving my yoga pants in the closet. Actually, for all of March, I’m also going to be drinking at the beginning of the week too. Because Albany Distilling Company is hosting its 3rd Annual Cocktail Contest, and it’s going down every Monday night in each of the four corners of the Capital Region.

Just this past week, it was held in Schenectady at Backstage Pub. Yours truly was there representing Yelp at the judges table. And now, I’m back to tell you about what you missed. Because there were some remarkable drinks served, from some unlikely places.

First, you should probably get a better sense of how this contest works.

Round one involves two drinks. The first drink is made from Albany Distilling Co’s Ironweed Rye. The second drink is made from the distillery’s Fort Orange Vodka. The drinks are brought to the judges one at a time by a cocktail runner, so we have no idea which contestant made what drink. Each drink is given its due. And by doing these one at a time, no drink has the chance to wilt.

First we score all of the rye drinks. Then we evaluate all of the vodka drinks. Each is judged on taste and balance; the intelligent use of ADCo products; presentation and appearance; and the creativity, relevance and appeal of the recipe name.

Once all the drinks are scored, only then is it revealed which drinks belong to each participating bartender. The scores for each of the contestants cocktails are added together, and the person with the highest combined score wins.

As judges, we don’t know which drinks belong to which contestants until the scores are finalized. It’s really a thrilling revelation.

The other judges, just so you know, are Katy Aitchison who is brilliant behind the bar, Melissa DelSavio who has worked on the sales side of spirits for over a decade, and John Curtin from Albany Distilling Company. Rick will be joining us in the future, but he was under the weather for the Schenectady round.

This past Monday, Schenectady was busier than usual. Not only was it Schenectady Restaurant Week, but also Proctor’s was having its big annual event, announcing next year’s season. As a result, some of the competitors weren’t able to make it.

All the same, we had representatives from Backstage Pub, The Glass Tavern, and The Schenectady Distilling Co. mixing up drinks and vying for a spot in the finals to represent the Electric City.

For the rye round, we were served:
The Golden Ticket – an Ironweed sour – by The Glass Tavern
Burnt Iron – a modified old fashioned in a smoked glass – by Backstage Pub
Ironweed Smule – a mash-up of a smash and a mule – by Schenectady Distilling

There was a clear favorite in this round, and that was The Golden Ticket by Lauren Bingenheimer. It’s kind of badass to enter a creative cocktail competition with a straight up classic drink. But this was gorgeously constructed. Yes it looked handsome crowned with a delicate egg white foam, etched with bitters. More importantly the balance was impeccable, and it was a perfect showcase for the Ironweed Rye. The spiciness came through and was cradled in the richness of egg white, and the brightness of lemon. It was the best whiskey sour I’ve had in a long time.

For the Fort Orange Vodka we received:
A Little R&R – a fruity and light rosemary and raspberry cocktail – by The Glass Tavern
Fort Pickford – a vodka based version of the classic Mary Pickford – by Backstage Pub
Orange Raspberry Chocolate Truffle – a creamy dessert drink – by Schenectady Distilling

This was a much closer battle, but after a lot of passionate discussion between the judges, the Fort Pickford edged its way to the top. This is a remarkable drink because like the Last Word it contains a bunch of very strong flavors, each of which could easily overwhelm the balance of a drink. But Terry Aldrich was able to deliver a glass where the Fort Orange Vodka was clearly present, amidst the Luxardo maraschino, and pineapple juice. The drop of chocolate bitter helped to ground this high flying drink with some deeper dark notes. It was subtle, but present. Shaken hard, and poured into a cocktail glass, those delicate ice shards and floating lemon zest added to what would be a refreshing summer sipper.

In the end, Lauren Bingenheimer for The Glass Tavern was Schenectady’s champion!

Lauren is no rookie behind the bar. She’s been at this for six years honing her craft at a bunch of establishments around the region, focusing on what she called “The three M’s, martinis, mojitos, and margaritas.” Having spent time at a range of places including Bangkok Bistro, Mexican Radio, Justin’s, Ship’s Pub, and Double Vision she’s had the chance to do just that. Now at The Glass Tavern, you can find her on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

While you can check out what Lauren is doing for the “Bartender’s Choice” cocktail of the night, I’d recommend asking her to shake you up one of these Ironweed Sours. She’s got the eggs, the fresh lemons, and most importantly the touch.

I can’t wait to see what she’s going to bring to the finals on Saturday, April 6. In the meantime, the next round is going to start at 7pm on Monday at Brown’s Brewing to find out who will represent the city of Troy in the finals.

Everyone is welcome to come. It’s free to watch. Bartenders make extra samples of their entries so attendees can taste along as the event unfolds. There is schwag, good cheer, and high drama. Hope to see you there!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. APK permalink
    March 12, 2019 7:03 am

    thank you fussylittleblog


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