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A Few Notable Troy Cocktails

March 15, 2019

Yes, it’s Friday morning and we’re talking about cocktails again. But that’s because it’s a Friday in March, which is when Albany Distilling Co is hosting its 3rd Annual Cocktail Contest. This year, after two years of bitter complaining about missing all the early rounds, I’ve landed a front row seat at the judges table.

Each Monday this month the show is going on the road to each of the four corners of the Capital Region. In just a few days, you’re invited to join in on the fun at Flatbread Social in Saratoga Springs. This is going to be a critical round, because Saratoga is the city that won the finals last year, and Hamlet & Ghost will surely bring the heat.

If you want to read about the results from Schenectady, you can do that here. If you missed that post last Friday, I’d recommend giving it a quick once over, because it went into all the details on how the judging for this contest actually works.

Today, I’m going to simply focus on the drinks that I thought were particularly notable in our visit to Troy earlier this week, along with a few words on the people who made them.

As a quick reminder, when the judges are evaluating the drinks, we are doing it blindly. We have no idea at the time who has made what. All we have are printouts of the recipes, and the drinks themselves. Together this evaluating panel of bartenders, distillers, liquor industry insiders, and me score each cocktail on taste and balance, intelligent use of ADCo products, presentation and appearance, and the creativity, relevance and appeal of recipe name.

What follows are my own perceptions of the drinks and not the judges as a whole. What happens at judges table, stays at judges table.

My favorite rye drink of the night was called “Hot Little Biscuit” and was made by MacKenzie Holmes of Franklin Alley Social Club. It was made from:

2 oz Ironweed Rye
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes blood orange bitters
3/4 oz of banana liquor
1/2 oz mango habanero vodka
Dash of chili bitters
Topped with pineapple slice

Holy cow. That was an unexpected delight, with the spice of the rye and the spice of the habanero dancing circles around each other on the palate. The banana liquor sounds odd, but it works. You could say it keeps the mango habanero vodka in check, but really it’s the other way around. Because after talking with MacKenzie it was the banana liquor that came first as she tried to imagine a tropical cocktail that used rye as a base. So the habanero was brought in to keep the sweetness in balance.

The drink was a secret shout out to Franklin Alley Social Club owner Heidi. Her initials were HLB, and not only is this cocktail a spicy little number, but “biscuit” is also a shuffleboard term for the puck like thing you slide across the court.

MacKenzie hasn’t been bartending for a long time, just about a year and a half. But you can find her at Franklin Alley on Friday nights, and if you ask her nicely, she might whip you up one of these zesty cocktails.

Once again, I was surprised to find one of my favorite drinks of the night was made with Fort Orange Vodka. That’s the Albany Distilling Co’s orange flavored vodka, which isn’t something I typically keep at home. However, it’s proving to be a powerhouse in the competition.

Meet the Fort Orange Sunset.

1.5 oz Fort Orange Vodka
3/4 oz Aperol
2T cucumber puree (shaken and strained)
1/2 oz mint ruby red simple syrup
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime
1/4 oz Chareau aloe liqueur
2 oz Saranac ginger beer
Garnished with dried orange and shaved cucumber

There were so many complementary flavors at play in this cocktail, it created a multilayered tasting experience. But the bottom line was that this was complex, refreshing, and beautifully balanced. Big props to Jay Perez from Brown’s Brewing Company who made this labor of love. Apparently the cucumber puree had to be strained four times to make it just right, so don’t look for this drink on their regular menu.

Heck, Jay isn’t actually one of their bartenders. He learned his skills behind the stick at Brown’s Maltroom, and is now the restaurant’s manager. But it’s good to see he hasn’t lost the touch. Maybe we can tempt him to get back to mixing up drinks and inspiring his staff to up its game. Because, damn. This was truly great, and it was a pleasure talking to him after the event and getting some of the insights into his entries.

This post can’t end without a shout out to Adrianna Kelley from Slidin’ Dirty who also created a beautiful cocktail with the Fort Orange Vodka called Life’s a Beach.

1.5 oz Fort Orange Vodka
1/4 oz orange juice
1/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz mango habanero vodka
Egg white

This cocktail was topped with grated orange zest, which provided aromatics of orange that just leaped from the glass. The shaken egg whites gave it a silkiness and weight in the mouth. The sting from the habanero kept things interesting, but it was just too hot. We all agreed it would be a much better drink with a little less heat.

Check it out for yourself. Adrianna is at Slidin’ Dirty in Troy in the evening Monday to Friday.

In the end, MacKenzie from Franklin Alley Social Club was declared the winner. Her Fort Orange Vodka cocktail was quite good too. It was called The Tang and had the trademark aroma of that orange flavored choice of astronauts. It was certainly a clever way to use the ADCo product, and I was glad she had enough restraint to abstain from using actual Tang in the drink

Congratulations to her, as MacKenzie will now be representing Troy in the finals at Albany Distilling Co on Saturday, April 6.

But before then, we need to choose champions from Saratoga Springs and Albany. So, I hope to see you at Flatbread Social on Monday! All the fun kicks off at 7pm. And while you might not be able to cast an official vote for your favorite drink, once the judging is through, I’d love to compare notes.

Have a great weekend, and if you happen to pop into Franklin Alley for a drink, make sure to let me know. Cheers!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. albanylandlord permalink
    March 16, 2019 12:35 am

    Congrats to MacKenzie, yet another reason to go to Franklin Alley Social Club.

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  1. What’s Up in the Neighborhood, March 16 2019 – Chuck The Writer

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