Because of my expertise in drinking, I was invited to compete in the Next GINeration Cocktail Challenge to become America’s Next Top Mixologist!

… Ummm, not so much.  But, thanks to Brittany Mendenhall of Chichi212, I was invited by New Amsterdam Gin to attend a lovely mixology session where we learned all about gin and all the great cocktails it can create, hosted by Master Mixologist Alex Ott, of famed Buddha Bar, Sushi Samba, Hemispheres in Sydney, and Q/bar in Bangkok, and many more.

The term “mixology” has only recently become popular, but is being tossed around carelessly when people just assume that you mix together alcohol and juice and you’re done.  Oh, but it is so much more than that!  A legit mixologist has to have years of experience (think 15+) with some kind of background in chemistry and/or gastronomy.  Not an easy feat!  Alex Ott certainly does the term proud with his vast experience in the culinary industry. (And did I mention that he is way dreamy??  Swoon!)

I wasn’t given the location of the event until the day before, and was picked up and taken to The Back Room. An appropriate and clandestine location for a mixology class, The Back Room is a classic speakeasy with history dating back to the Prohibition era, dimly lit for secrecy and indiscretions.

New Amsterdam has partnered with Alex Ott, and together they are touring cities to introduce the gin.  They are headed next to Chicago and to New Orleans, but of course they kicked off the tour right here in NYC!  After all, before New York was New York, it was New Amsterdam!  Did your mind just explode?  Check out Wikipedia for a quick history lesson!  And this is why the gin’s bottle mimic the Empire State Building.

For the challenge, we first got a crash course from Alex on gin: on its juniper-y and medicinal origins; the three basic types (London, Geneva, and American).  We were then given some basic tips on how to mix cocktails and use the tools (shaker, strainer, muddler, paring knife) and what ingredients to go with the gin – basics mixer like fruit, juice and tonic water, to crazy things like cinnamon, cayenne pepper, ginger, and rose water, to things I’ve never even heard of like elderflower liqueur and lavender sugar.  And then suddenly, the timer started the countdown from 10 minutes and we were expected to come up with our own gin-based cocktail!

Panic ensued, and I was scrambled around trying to come up with ingredients that didn’t taste terribly together.  It seemed as though everyone else got their shit together, but we had to not only make a drink that taste good, but come up with a concept  and story behind our cocktail, along with a creative and catchy name.  Now I know what all those contestants on Top Chef must feel with all that pressure, minus their talents.  It was actually way more stressful than I ever imagined it could be!  While us amateurs were given 10 minutes to create one cocktail, challenges and competitions with pros are sometimes only given 9 minutes to make 5 different cocktails!

So the result?  Well, the panel of judges, which included Alex Ott, came around to taste each of our cocktails and provide individual feedback.  To be fair to us newbies, they gave us encouraging compliments and constructive criticism, never saying anything tasted horribly which would’ve surely crushed my fragile self-esteem.  The winner of the cocktail challenge was Selena Ricks of The Dizzy Fizz, with her drink dubbed the Green Market Smash!

Green Market Smash
1 ½ oz New Amsterdam Gin
½ oz liquefied honey
½ oz elderflower liqueur
6-8 basil leaves
1 oz orange juice
½ oz cranberry juice

The winner of challenge wins a private, fully-catered dinner for 10 guests in there home.  Congrats, Selena!  I am, indeed, green with envy!

This contest was a great way to get people involved in the product of gin, specifically highlighting the versatility of New Amsterdam Gin (Plug: only $13.99 a bottle!  What a deal!). I’m definitely not normally a gin drinker, but after this fun challenge, I am now sold on the awesomeness that is gin.

See some of the runner-up recipes below our photo gallery, courtesy of New Amsterdam Gin. And if you feel like stalking, check out a few older articles on Alex Ott from Running Restaurant and Beverage Business – and if you come across any more articles featuring this hunk, be sure to email me.


For more articles on the Next GINeration Cocktail Challenge, see coverage by New York Insider and Martini Talk!

2010 Next GINeration Cocktail Challenge Cocktail Recipes

Runners up:

Carmen Operetta, Libation Diaries
“The GINtrification

2 ½ oz New Amsterdam Gin
2 slices cucumber
2 wedges lemon
½ barspoon liquified honey
½ oz Elderflower liquer
2 dashes celery bitters
2 dashes rose water
1 oz orange juice

Christa Vagnozzi, Martini Talk
“The Flight Delay

1 ½ oz New Amsterdam Gin
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz orange juice
¾ oz cherry juice
Splash of Crème de Violette

Christopher Koulouris, Scallywag & Vagabond
“Sweet Scoundrel”

New Amsterdam Gin
Liquefied honey
Elderflower liqueur
Orange juice
Splash of soda water

Erin Howard, YAY! DIY

1 ½ oz New Amsterdam Gin
¾ oz white cranberry juice
¾ oz seltzer
¾ tsp liquefied honey
Pinch lavender sugar

Thomas Farley, New York Insider TV
“The Pick-Up Artist”

2 oz New Amsterdam Gin
3 oz orange juice
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash ground ginger

Laura Lee
“Spicy Elixir”

New Amsterdam Gin
Pineapple juice
Cayenne pepper
Ground nutmeg
Grape juice
Tonic water
Liquefied honey

… and last but not least…

“Tropical Skyline

New Amsterdam Gin
Pineapple Juice
Lime juice
Elderflower liqueur
Ground ginger
Lime garnish