Food & Drink

Clan Of Ten To Battle In Final Cocktail Challenge

Ten cocktail connoisseurs will soon battle it out in the finals of the ‘Enter the Dragon’ cocktail competition, created and hosted by high-end Chinese spirit brand Moutai, the leading brand of Baijiu (pronounced bye-joe), a traditional Chinese spirit.

During an event held on October 23 at the Handpicked Wines Cellar Door, an upmarket bottle shop offering wine tasting and cheese platters as you shop, the ten finalists were read out to an intimate gathering of 30 guests.

The clan of ten, whom six attended Monday night’s reveal party, will head to Melbourne on November 13 for their ultimate challenge, which will be curated by none other than 2017 Masterchef winner Diana Chen.

Six of the ten cocktail connoisseurs chosen as finalists. From left to right: Jack Krzywdzinski, Jono Carr, Joe Singara, Kevin Peters, Benjamin Parton, Thomas Egan

Six of the ten cocktail connoisseurs chosen as finalists. From left to right: Jack Krzywdzinski, Jono Carr, Joe Singara, Kevin Peters, Benjamin Parton, Thomas Egan. Image: Kai Leishman

Cocktail competition finalist Jono Carr who resides in NSW spoke with me during the event and was excited at the prospects of being tested by Diana.

“I’m really looking forward to the surprise challenge,” Jonathan said. “I’m guessing it will have something to do with food, and food pairing is something that I really enjoy doing with cocktails.”

Moutai Brand Manager Jenny Chiu praised the high amount of competitors, calling the creative standard “nothing short of immense”.

“It is inspiring to see so many bartenders appreciating the broad spectrum and uniqueness of Moutai flavours,” Jenny said.

“The competition has showcased that top-flight bartenders can tie Moutai with native flavours, and use their creative genius to produce meaningful cocktails that the Australian market both understands and enjoys.”

The initial process asked bartenders to submit their unique cocktail recipe before official judging commenced. Participants then had to present their Moutai-inspired masterpieces, delivering a five-minute demonstration of their inventiveness and precision in front of the panel of esteemed judges.

The winner for the final test in Melbourne will be sent on a trip to China to experience and learn the ancient and modern techniques of Moutai production, followed by two nights exploring the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.

“I’m really excited. Hong Kong’s been on my list of places to go for a very long time,” said Western Australian Joe Singara, who is another finalist.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else does with their drinks. I think Moutai is a really interesting product and to see how different bartenders takes it will be very interesting to see.”

At the reveal party on Monday night, guests sipped on The Drink Cabinet’s Moutai cocktails, indulged on Peking duck pancakes by Holy Duck, and were treated to tunes spun by local musical legend DJ Levins.

Moutai bottle among a selection of gourmet meats and cheese platters

Moutai bottle among a selection of gourmet meats and cheese platters. Image: Kai Leishman

With Moutai featuring a 53% alcohol content, and with a taste comparable to a blend of vodka and scotch – and a definite hint of soy sauce – it is only fitting to mix with other strong flavours, which personally I’d prefer them to be sweet.

The three cocktails at the Monday night event were shaken up and showcased by The Drink Cabinet, a Sydney-based drinks and event business, with very different textures:

One featured prosecco and coopers – a bitter palette but full of flavour; Another featured Australian gin, lime and mango – a sweet concoction; And the last one featured Australian rum and pineapple juice – bittersweet and earthy.

The full list of ‘Enter The Dragon’ top ten finalists and their cocktails are:

  • Kevin Peters, Garden State Hotel, VIC – ‘Year of The Snake’
  • Jono Carr, Kittyhawk, NSW – ‘It’s Always Sunny in Guizhou Province’
  • Joe Singara. Halford, WA – ‘Lucky 8’
  • Quynh Van Nguyen, Charlie Parker’s, NSW – ‘It’s Native Fizz Thyme’
  • Tom Kearney, Mechanics Institute, WA – ‘The End of The Dragon’
  • Phillip Weber, El Grotto, WA – ‘Shaolin Sour’
  • Ray Letoa, Roxy Cinema, NZ – ‘Descendants Elixir’
  • Jack Krzywdzinski, The 18th Amendment, VIC – ‘Honorary Native’
  • Thomas Egan, New Gold Mountain VIC – ‘Xiao Long’
  • Benjamin Parton, The Barlow Room SA – ‘Shuang Fizz’

The final cocktail combat will take place on November 13 at QT Melbourne, where one lucky bartender will become the next reigning Moutai master.

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