Last month, Seattle-based drinks distributor American Northwest hosted its first live cocktail competition featuring Victoria Distillers‘ Empress 1908 gin. An open call for recipe submissions resulted in 27 creations coming in from around Washington State, all exclusively featuring the gin from British Columbia. The American Northwest team pared the selection down to five recipes after trial-testing in-house and invited the four bartenders to come splash their libations for a panel of judges, including our own contributing writer Adam H. Callaghan (and editor for Eater Seattle).
After watching Seattle’s Central Smoke Bar & Smokery bartender Benji Sager peel, cut with decorative wavy scissors and torch four different grapefruit garnishes before even mixing the drink — a labor that seemed excessive until his announcement of the cocktail name — the Pompous Mousse took home the crown for its creativity, flair and focus on the Empress 1908 gin.
“The gin lays down the framework for the entire cocktail,” Sager explains of his drink, named coyly after the French word for grapefruit, pamplemousse. “I chose rose water and grapefruit juice to enhance the natural floral and grapefruit notes of the Empress 1908. Next it needed to be regal but showy, therefore, an egg white and pompous grapefruit garnish.”
As competition victor, American Northwest awarded Sager with a roundtrip to Victoria with a high tea and a stay at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, the partner in the spirit, plus a tour of Victoria Distillers with Peter Hunt, president and master distiller. “I’m very intrigued by the science behind the drinks, so I want to pick his brain and be a sponge to his fountain of knowledge,” Sager adds.
The bartender welcomes guests to come into the new Central Smoke and experience the cocktail menu, maybe even request The Pompous Mousse. “There’s some shock and awe, but [the experience is] backed up by solid well-balanced cocktails,” he says. “I go on stage every night and get to play with physics and chemistry with a captive, diverse audience. Whats not to love?”
The Pompous Mousse
Makes 1 cocktail
2 ounces Victoria Distillers Empress 1908 gin
1/2 ounce egg whites
1/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce Demerara syrup (equal parts Demerara sugar and water)
3 drops rose water
Garnish: fat grapefruit peel, burnt
Add all of the ingredients to a mixing tin and give it a dry shake. Add ice and shake again. Over a flame, slightly burn the grapefruit peel and place in the glass. Double strain the cocktail into glass and serve.
Note: Rose water can be purchased online, like this one.