Joe recently entered the MolecularMixology.co.uk and El Dorado Molecular comp and after blitzing through the heats he appeared at the final last month. He created arguably the most talked about drink in the competition with his El Dorado Bloody Mary Tomato Tree, however as you can imagine such elaborate drinks come with a whole new world of challenges. For Joe’s first blog for BarLifeUK he takes us through this process.
I have almost always found preparing for any cocktail competition is stressful enough, especially when you want to be the one that stands out. Everything from having a damn fancy piece of glassware to a slick routine can win over the judges, but as for the molecular mixology competition I wanted to avoid conventional glassware altogether.
Sourcing most items is easy, for example a quick look online in the right places can unearth many oddities & exotic ingredients, even a trip to a handful of charity shops can lead to some of the most unusual drinking vessels out there. I have been told that reason I made things harder for myself during the competition is that I think of what I want to achieve first & then set about doing it with next to no idea if it would actually work in reality.
The drinks for the competition heats were defiantly stumbled upon; while making coconut & mango fried eggs last March, as you do, I said to somebody present at the time “I’m going to put that in an egg shell”, again with no regard or thought into if I could do this let alone get the egg white to set hard around the soft yolk. The only way I can describe what happened next was a lengthy kitchen session of trial & error involving me, lots of rum, a camping stove, an industrial size box of eggs, Coconut Cream, Mango Puree & Agar…..
Eventually it came together very well but presenting an egg on a table isn’t quite enough, certainly not for a competition. Finding all the extras can, I feel, be the most difficult; the best spoon, wooden board, egg cup etc. They have to go visually well together to complete the look. Luckily it went off without a hitch, the only worrying part of the comp was after I presented the cocktail to the judges & cracked the egg open to find out if it worked, seeing as you can’t check beforehand I’m sure you can imagine the phrase “moment of truth” swirling round my head with all the rum I’d drunk at the Imbibe Bar Show just a few hours before.
Once I had made it through to the final I decided to enter an edible martini glass as my first drink, I thought I’d just look online & one would just pop out in Google shopping, not a chance. I emailed a few plastics & mould making companies but the quotes were often more than 1st prize! So I went about trying to make my own & 13-14 attempts later found that a small gardener’s funnel inside an old latte glass from the back of my cupboard with a 35mm film pot in the bottom as a base worked fairly well as a mould….
Certainly sourcing a film set fake tomato plant was one of the more challenging items to tick off the list. After not much luck with the internet search again I was almost tempted to start growing one myself but a last ditch email to a film set designers came up trumps so I drove out to west Berkshire to collect. After driving around with it I the boot for a few days I started chopping off the fake toms & trying to work out how the hell I was going to attach the real ones.
As I mentioned before just presenting the main item didn’t seem enough to me so thinking about what goes well with tomatoes I instantly thought of cheese, however incorporating El Dorado was a little worrying as I’d never really had rum & cheese! The first few batches were foul, I mean really awful, either too much rum or too much Agar I think, it was like eating alcoholic cheese flavoured Soya. I pressed on & a few camembert later had the perfect mix of 12yr old rum, basil paste, salt & pepper. I think it may have even tasted better than some of the tomatoes if I’m honest, but then again I do love cheese.
The cucumber & shaped toast were both very last minute editions after thinking the wooden chopping board looked a bit empty with just the cheese & a knife. I originally wanted to heat up copper wire with a blow torch & brand water biscuits with the El Dorado logo – this doesn’t work. I settled with bread cut out to letters & blowtorched to toast on the day of the comp as a toaster isn’t the smallest thing to carry around with you especially when also carrying a 4ft plant.
The cucumber was just a bit of an experiment with Hendricks Gin, Tonic, Sugar and Agar. I scooped out & replacing the middle a solidified version of the iconic Gin & Tonic with cucumber. It looked & tasted great so I thought it deserved a place on “The Big Bartenders Brunch”.
Turned out to be a great competition & I almost can’t wait until the next time it’s held, I think everyone had great ideas to show off all day. Well done to Jon & Quentin for placing 1st & 2nd
About the Author: Joe has worked in the bar industry for over 9 years now, predominately within cocktail bars. He has been everything from a bar back to general manager along the way, also writing & developing cocktail menus as well as training staff. He setup BarUnLtd in early 2011 which included training & development for spirit brands & also helping run bars at high profile events across the u.k. Joe is now full time with First Drinks Brands.