In the mid-2000s, nobody seems to recall exactly when, Tito's Handmade Vodka formed a partnership with the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau and created an event called the Official Drink of Austin Contest. ACVB is the primary cheerleader for the City of Austin in the national media market, and the Official Drink contest proved to be a popular marketing vehicle in their campaign to showcase Austin has an Eating & Drinking city (the recent announcement of a Food & Wine magazine-endorsed festival in Austin could be seen as the fruits of their labor). It was also a fabulous promotional event for Tito's, which at the time (and for about a decade) was the only distillery in Texas. Lastly, the event was an early showcase for what has become a vibrant creative cocktail scene in Austin.
Over the years, as the Texas distilling industry expanded, and as Austin's cocktail bartenders became more sophisticated, the city began to outgrow the original format of its Official Drink contest. I was a judge in the 2008 contest, and was eager to offer input (some would call it nagging, unsolicited opinion-giving) into the running of the event in subsequent years. Some suggestions were heeded, and the ACVB, especially Beth Krauss, was patient with me even when they needn't have been. In the winter of 2008, Tipsy Texan and Edible Austin started the Drink Local Cocktail Contest as a way to put a focus on the craft side of cocktails, the importance of fresh/local ingredients, and the diversity of spirits that had started to pop up in recent years.
This year the ACVB was not able to provide a budget for the event, and so they called me to ask if I was interested in running it. Obviously I was honored to be asked, and delighted to say "Yes." It occurred to me that we now had two cocktail events that in many ways overlapped each other, so we have merged them into one. I think the format of the old Drink Local contest is a good one, and we have consistently had some of the best talent in Austin and Texas compete in our event. Obviously the high profile and fun nature of the Official Drink contest has tremendous appeal. I think in merging the two events, we have created something that exceeds the sum of its parts: an Official Drink of Austin Contest that focuses on the craft of the cocktail, showcases the diverse talent in Texas distilling, and is open to all Austin bartenders--professional and amateur alike. I hope you'll agree--contest rules after the jump
The new Official Drink of Austin contest will be held on Drink Local Night, part of Edible Austin Magazine's Eat Drink Local Week
There will be no registration fee associated with the contest.
It is mandatory that you include at least one Texas-made spirit from the following list, and that your base spirit come from this list (more sponsors/participant spirits are signing up every day, so check back soon for more details):
Paula's Texas Orange
Paula's Texas Lemon
Treaty Oak Rum
Graham's Texas Tea
Baby Blue Corn Whisky
Balcones True Blue
Cypress Creek Reserve Rum
Enchanted Rock Vodka
Rebecca Creek Texas Whiskey
Ranger Creek .36 Texas Bourbon
Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka
Pecan St Rum
Tenneyson Absinthe Royale (Can be used in conjunction with another TX-made spirit)
Each participant’s entry must be received by email to Tex at tipsytexan.com no later than Midnight CST on November 23, 2011. Entries received after this time will be disqualified.
Five finalists and one alternate will be selected, notified and announced on Monday November 28, 2011.
Five finalists and one alternate will present their drinks at Edible Austin magazine’s Fifth Annual Drink Local Night on Thursday December 8, 2011 in the ballroom at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center. The contestants and alternate will each make five drinks for the judging panel. They will need to arrive at the venue by 4:30 pm to assist in batching the contest drinks that will be served in sample portions to guests; contestants will be expected to be available to pour samples for the duration of the event, which is a fundraiser for Urban Roots. A “people’s choice” prize will be awarded to the contestant whose drink receives the most votes from event attendees.
Your batch will need to be sufficient enough to serve 500 2-oz sample portions.
Base spirits, modifying spirits, readily available fruits and juices will be provided, unless it is an unusual item (such as a house-made syrup or obscure liqueur) in which case please provide your own. A stipend of $50 will be provided to reimburse cost of proprietary ingredients.
If the finalist cannot be present to prepare the cocktail the evening of the competition, the cocktail cannot be prepared by a surrogate. In such an event, the alternate will compete.
Recipes should contain at least two alcoholic ingredients: one must be utilized as a base spirit and one as a modifying spirit.
All garnishes must be edible and prepared by contestant; fresh garnish ingredients specified in the finalists' recipes will be provided. Use of manufactured garnishes will not be allowed, except for straws and toothpicks, which will be provided if requested in advance by contestant.
Standard bar tools will be provided; Boston shakers, bars spoons, Hawthorn strainers, etc. Contestants may, at their request, use their own non-branded bar tools and their own fruit for garnishes (Only natural fruits may be used for garnish).
Maximum number of alcohol and non-alcohol components should not exceed six (6), including drops, rinses and dashes.
Each contestant will present five identical cocktails, one for each judge. Time for preparing the five cocktails in front of the judges should not exceed six (6) minutes from the start of preparation to service. You will be expected to be “on deck” approximately ten minutes before you will begin your presentation.
The winning recipe will be featured in the Spring 2012 issue of Edible Austin magazine.
The winning recipe will be declared the Official Drink of Austin for the next year, complete with a proclamation stating as much from the Office of the Mayor.