lauantai 5. marraskuuta 2016

Bacardi Legacy 2017 - Journey begins!

In the beginning of October it was that time of the year again: the qualifications for Bacardi Legacy. This cocktail competition is one of the biggest in the bar industry, and it challenge bartenders to create a modern classic and develop their own brand as bartenders. Finland was one of the last countries to have their qualifications done, at the after party of annual FinnBar - convention. Rusty Bar in Katajanokka acted as the stage for this battle. 

Ten of the most promising recipes had been chosen to battle it out on a Monday evening 4th of October. The panel of judges had a difficult task ahead of them, trying to work out who would be three bartenders to make it to the North European Finals in London in the beginning of November. Timo Siitonen from A21 Decades, Dickie Cullimore from Bacardi, Jaana Vainio from Shaker magazine and Natalia Tolmatsova from White Trash Disease -blog were still smiling before the first contestant climbed on to the stage. 

First up was Jami Järvinen, who works in Roster Bar in the Kauppatori area in Helsinki. His story was build around the first definition of the world cocktail found in a New York based newspaper in 1806, and also the recipe of Old Fashioned cocktail. 

Matias Parkkinen from Bronda Restaurant had created an all year around version of the loved Gluehwein. Matias moved to Helsinki couple of years ago from the North, and has been serving Gluehwein during the cold winters, but always missed those warming flavors during the summer when warm drinks weren't the first choice.

My own creation Plan B was inspired by sustainable bartending. In our bar A21 Decades we use a lot of egg whites for Sours, and I felt bad every single time when separating the eggs and just tossing away the egg yolk. So I decides to create a cocktail around this misused ingredient. I combined easy to get ingredients like basil, honey and black pepper, and used Bacardi Ocho as the backbone for this fresh and light flip.

Antti Kuitunen wanted to offer a bit of Finnish culture for our international judge Dickie, and had decided to have his presentation in Finnish and have it interpreted to English by his Kiwi friend.

Juho Eklund from Trillby and Chadwik had named his drink "The Escapist". The fresh cilantro in his drink certainly took in a different place and time. 

Mika Ammunet, who was celebrating his birthday, had taken cocktail part in five fundamental parts. The cocktail was called Give Me Five! and was a modern version of Cosmopolitan. 

Sampsa Tukia was the only bartender coming from outside Helsinki. Representing Shaker Jyväskylä, he had created a drink inspired by his granny who used to take him pick mushrooms and berries like lingonberries. 

Mikko Karjunen from Grotesk told that he usually graves a hangover drink but feels too bad to have one. So he decided to create a hangover cocktail which would have all the things you need when feeling a bit down and tired. 

Eetu Topo from Lilla E was introducing us to a new category called Pickle. This nordic drink category lies on the staple ingredient in nordic cuisine, vinegar. 

Daniel Woodward from Roster had based his drink on his own family heritage, and named it after their family The Woodward Cocktail. 

It was a tight competition, and we were very happy to hear that top four of Finnish qualifications could have easily battled with the bartenders in UK finals. Me, Daniel and Eetu were waiting for the results nervously. When our judge and journalist in Shaker Magazine, Jaana Vainio, started to take photos of us while Jarkko the Brandambassador for Bacardi Finland was giving his speech, I started guessing that we might be the top three.

And I guessed it right! For a second year in a row, me and Daniel Woodward made our way to the North European Finals, and Eetu Topo is joining us in London. Next week we are going to do all we can to represent Finland in the best possible way. On Tuesday evening we will know, who will continue their journey into the Global Finals in Berlin in May!

torstai 22. syyskuuta 2016

Fiskars Village - the haven of artists and craftsmen

The Fiskars Village has been one of my favorite places in Southern Finland for many years now, and I've been trying to visit the place at least once a year. Fiskars is located in the area of Pohja - meaning ”the bottom” in Finnish - in the region of Uusimaa. This area was known as the capitol of iron production in Finland during the 15th century, as many of the major ironworks were found there. During the summer time there is a bus leaving from Helsinki each Saturday to take culture enthusiasts and foodies to wander in this haven of artists and craftsmen. There are events, workshops and exhibitions all around the year, and outside summer season you reach the village by taking the train to Karjaa and hopping on one of the local busses.

Recently I've had the pleasure to visit Fiskars more frequently, since I was contacted by the addition to Finland's distilling family, Ägras Distillery. The distillery was found by the owners of Rekolan Panimo, which was one of the first micro breweries in Finland. After raising their funding for the distillery by crowd funding program Susanna, Jari, Juha, Tomi, Kenneth and Anssi have been busy setting up the distilling equipment, foraging for wild herbs and designing products. 

Ägras distillery is tucked away on the banks of the river flowing through the Fiskars Village. When I first visited the distillery it was merely an empty shell, since the distilling equipment was yet to arrive and bar to be built. It was still easy to see that the place was going to be wicked once finished! I was meeting with Susanna and Jenni to help them designing cocktail menu for their bar next to the distillery, Tap Room. We were looking for inspiration from the local area, of wild herbs, history and craftsmen around the village. I left from the distillery buzzing with inspiration and ready to realize the ideas I had in my mind! 

After coming all the way to the Fiskars Village, I could not just leave after our meeting so I headed out to explore the boutiques and coffee shops. Cafe Antique is one of my favorite places to enjoy a giant cinnamon roll with a good cup of coffee, browse through some art books and just enjoy a beautiful day. 

Tupapuoti is selling all sorts of local handicraft and art products. Clothes, jewellery, notebooks, dishes, ceramics, toys, postcards, kettleholders, you name it. 

I also found a boutique selling clothes made of second hand fabrics bearing the name of my last year's Bacardi Legacy Cocktail: Second Chance! Such a beautiful place with sustainable clothing for all ages, shapes and sizes. I could not leave without buying a cute little snap suit for by goddaughter!

If you are interested in visiting the village, there is good excuse coming next week. A wild herb and slow food event is held in Fiskars on 30th of September. "Slow meets Wild" is targeted for restaurant and traveling professionals, and offers new ideas about local products and wild herbs. I would definitely go myself if I wasn't working that day...

torstai 8. syyskuuta 2016

Nordic Finals for Sidecar by Merlet

In the last week of August it was time to hop on a sidecar again in the form of "Sidecar by Merlet" -cocktail competition. After winning the Finnish qualifications with Jenna Mansikka, we have been getting ready for the Scandinavian Finals. We flew to Stockholm with our fellow Birdtenders ready to support and cheer for us on site - thank you Merlet Finland for making it happen! Unfortunately Moona forgot to bring her team cap so she was ordered to carry a bunch of sage from bar to bar as a punishment. We named the sage "The Sage of Shame". Yeah, it was funny!

Moona and Jessi helped us polish and assemble our bartending tools and glassware.

Pauliina is in charge of Birdtender's social media, and she was constantly processing images, picking hashtags and perfecting filters!

The competition took place in Reisen Hotel located in the banks of Old Town. Such a beautiful place with a very welcoming staff, we felt immediately like at home there! Luc Merlet introduced us to the rules of the Scandinavian Finals before releasing Tony Conigliaro for his Master Class. 

I have seen Tony many times this year, but somehow he always manages to keep his performance interesting and different even when talking about same subjects. He took us on a journey into the imagination with examples about where to get inspiration from.  Tony's Drink Factory in London focuses on creating new innovations with experts from different industries: perfumeries, artists, photographers, scientists, doctors, you name it. 

After drawing our performance order from the hat, it was time to begin the competition. Jenna was the lucky number one to start the show.  The Scandinavian finals followed the same pattern as national qualifications: each competitor had prepared a twist on a classic Sidecar Cocktail, and made their second creation with one of the Merlet liqueurs. Before the Scandinavian finals we received also a list of classic cognac cocktails including drinks like Sazerac, Continental Sour, Brandy Crusta and Stinger. We were supposed to make one of these drinks for the judges to prove our knowledge also in the field of classic cocktails. 

Before the competition Moona was supporting Jenna and making sure she had everything she needs. Jenna drew "Brandy Crusta" from the hat for the classic cocktail challenge. We had gone though all the classic drinks at home before the competition, and this was the one we both feared the most, not because of the drink but for the tricky garnish it has: wide sugar rim and lemon peel attached to the inside of the mouth of the glass. 

Jenna was first introduced to the Sidecar Cocktail when she started her bartending career in the town where she was born, Rovaniemi. That time everybody drank their cognac neat, and when Jenna was trying to have some of her regular customers to try this cognac based cocktail, they would just look at her in disbelief and say "Young girl, you never mix cognac with anything". Finally she got one of them to taste it, and last time she saw this guest they were still loving Sidecar, after all these years!

Anna-Kaisa was filming our presentations for us to go trough later so that we can learn from our mistakes and success. 

For her Sidecar twist Jenna had created a cocktail combining sage and homemade lemon sherbet to cognac and triple sec. "Sage in side" was served in a coupe glass rimmed with salt and sugar and garnished with sage leaf.  For her own creation Jenna had decided to use Merlet Sour Cerises, which is and excellent cherry liqueur with very authentic flavor. Paired with cognac, lemon juice, mint and Angostura Bitters, this was a perfect julep for autumn!

Next up Fredrik Wallin from Nytorget 6, Stockholm. For his Sidecar Twist he had decided to use ingredients he loves the most: cognac, figs and Banyuls. He was aiming for a drink with more depth than the classic version. Served with crispy figs and French cheese, "The AOC Sidecar" surely delivered that depth Fredrik was after.  For his second creation "Napoleon" he used Merlet Peach liqueur, Peach bitters, St. James Heritage, lemon and simple syrup. With about 30 seconds in the clock he still had to prepare Sazerac, and as you guess he didn't make it to the 8 minutes time limit. He wasn't the only one though, since only one competitor managed to present without going over time!

My turn was on after that. I always prefer to have my presentation in the beginning of the competition. I feel more relaxed that way, and I can also concentrate on other competitors performances and learn after my own turn has gone already. I was lucky to draw "Continental Sour" as my classic cognac cocktail, since it was one of the drinks I felt more confident preparing. I learnt that drink many years ago in American Bar in Hotel Torni Helsinki. Our head bartender Mika Vitikka liked this drink a lot and often recommended it to the customers even when it was not on the menu. 

From classic cocktail I moved forward to more modern direction. I drew inspiration for my Sidecar Twist from my favorite meal: breakfast. And since we were talking about cognac competition, it had to be French Breakfast and not Full English. I had fat washed my cognac with brown butter to give it croissant type of flavor. Croissant is nothing without orange marmalade, so I had to use it with a bit of blood orange and lemon juice. Shaken together, this "Lady Marmalade" was served with brioche, orange marmalade and popping candy.

Merlet is a very family focused brand with Luc, his brother and father working together for the cognac, so I wanted to introduce them to my family a little also. My granny Aino used to grow black currants on our summer cottage and make super tasty juice out of them. We always drank that from enamel cups with cinnamon buns. For my "Aino" cocktail I used Merlet Creme de Cassis to re-create that black currant flavor together with Zubrovka, cardamom syrup, lemon and cranberry tea. 

Mattias Borg from Haymarket's American Bar in Stockholm had created orange and lemon oil foam for his Sidecar Twist. In a stirring glass rinsed with Merlet Triple Sec, he mixed cognac to acidified lemon sugar, stirred and poured on a clear block of ice and finished "Bobby Car" with the foam. His second creation "The Martinique Shuffle" combined Merlet Poire to Pussers, falernum, barbecued pineapple juice and lime. Out of the drinks I tried, this was one of my favorites! Mattias was also the only one to finish his presentation on time.

Michael Florindon from Pluto, Copenhagen, had drawn inspiration for his Sidecar Twist from his childhood. He and his brother used to play a lot in their garden, where their mother had planted lavender. Unluckily their neighbors had an apiary, and the bees living there loved the lavender. After all the bee stings he still remembers those times with happiness. Merlet cognac paired with triple sec, lemon, lavender bitters  and honey re-created those memories for him in the form of "Lavender Sidecar". In his second creation "Poire and Oil" he used Merlet Poir with cognac, olive oil, cynar, eggwhite and pinch of salt. 

The only competitor from Norway came from Thief Bar, Oslo. Slavomir Kytka prepared his Sidecar twist with Merlet cognac and Triple Sec, Mandarin shrub, lemon and cacao bitters. This "French Courage" was served with a festive edible flower. His second creation was named "Succes", and it was made of the ingredients you need to be successful: working hard, being loved and traveling. For this drink he stirred Eau de Vigne, Merlet Creme de Mure, Umeshu, and Merlet C2 Cafe liqueur and sherry reduction.

Last but not least it was time for Goran Aziz from Ström, Copenhagen. He was wearing the most cool bow tie made of bark with some moss growing on it! Goran twisted his Sidecar with ingredients sourced from trees: maple syrup and amber. The drink was called the "Family Three".

His second drink was dedicated to his girlfriend. She had been asking to join him on a vacation in Mexico, but Goran had told her that it is trip only for bartenders. He decided to make up by naming a drink after her, but not her first name but the second one. "Who is Louise?" was the question she asked when Goran told the name of the drink - she hadn't even realized it meant her! The drink was made of ingredients inspired by Mexico: blanco tequila, Merlet Poir, lemon, marzipan and eggwhite. 

After the competition it was time for some actual Sidecar and painstaking wait of the final scores. 

And the winner was........ Goran Aziz from Ström! He is traveling to Cognac region in January to battle in the International Finals for the grand price: a trip to the Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Good job Goran, go and show them what the Nordics are made of and bring the trophy home!

Thank you Merlet and Stockholm for having us, it was a blast like always!