File Under: Hot Dates


  • Feel like a kid in a gourmet liquor shop as you sip your way through a dizzying array of top-rated adult beverages at the Ultimate Cocktails, Spirits and Wine Blast this Fri. Oct. 15. Sample hundreds of tipples judged by F. Paul Pacult’s inaugural Ultimate Beverage Challenge earlier this year. Expect world-class bartenders, author signings, seminars and savory bites. Bloomspot and Time Out New York are offering discounts on tickets (enter the code “TONY1015” for 50% off), priced at $90 ($110 VIP). From 6:30 to 10 p.m. (VIP 5 to 10 p.m.) at Marriott Marquis, 1535 Broadway (44th and 45th Sts).
  • On Sun., Oct. 17, Frankie’s Sputino and Prime Meats in Carroll Gardens are holding their annual Oktoberfest with traditional Bavarian fare and drinks. The party goes from noon to 6 p.m. in the backyard, with a special music performance following. 457 Court St., Brooklyn.
  • Oy–also on Sun., Oct. 17, is the Tenth Annual NYC International Pickle Day, featuring free samples of all sorts of pickled veggies, fruits, meat and cheese. What’s this got to do with cocktails, you ask? Well, if you’ve ever had a pickle back (a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice) you might appreciate the variety of “briiiine.” From 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the parking lot on Broome between Essex and Ludlow.
  • With the recent success of San Francisco Cocktail Week and this week’s London Cocktail Week, it’s no wonder that Portland, Ore., wanted to get in on the celebration of their cocktail culture as well. Get ready for Portland Cocktail Week, Oct. 21 to 24, in conjunction with the Great American Distillers Festival. Highlights include a tiki bash, a meat tour and a Benedictine ball.
  • And you have until Oct. 31 to submit your entries for the Bols Around the World Cocktail Competition. The theme this year is “Mix Your Way to Cocktail Heaven,” seeking the most divine drink containing a Bols product. Two North American finalists, as judged by John Lermayer, will win a three-day trip to Amsterdam to compete with six other international finalists in February of 2011. Up for grabs are some hefty cash prizes: first place gets 2,500 Euros (about $3480 US), the second-place winner will receive 750 Euros (about $1045 US) and the third-place winner goes home with 500 Euros (about $696 US). You must be a working bartender to enter and your submission must contain at least 3/4 of an ounce of a Bols liqueur.

Rick's Picks' new "Hotties," sriracha-habanero pickles, will be served on Saxelby Cheesemongers' grilled cheese sandwiches at International Pickle Day Sun. Oct. 17.

Ultimate Spirits Challenge Winners Announced

The Ultimate Spirits Challenge judging panel at Astor Center.

I’m currently having a blast as a featured blogger at SXSW in Austin, Tex., but I must take a quick break to share yesterday’s announcement of the winners from the first-ever Ultimate Spirits Challenge spearheaded by F. Paul Pacult. Congrats to the winners! Here’s the press release:

March 15, 2010 (New York, NY): Ultimate Beverage Challenge’s (UBC) first Ultimate Spirits Challenge was held at Astor Center on March 1-3, 2010. The inaugural Ultimate Spirits Challenge proved that integrity, method, and credibility can flourish and be the driving forces in a competitive beverage alcohol environment. More than 520 entries from scores of companies and nations were entered, but only a dozen distillates were awarded the esteemed USC Chairman’s Trophy as the highest scoring spirits of their category.

Following four stages of competitive judging over the course of three days, Ultimate Spirits Challenge Chairman’s Trophy winners were arrived at based on their aggregate score on the 100-point scale. Panels of carefully selected spirits authorities (such as Assistant Judging Chairman Sean Ludford, Dale DeGroff, Andy Seymour, Jacques Bezuidenhout), educators (Steve Olson, Doug Frost), buyers (James Conley, Ethan Kelley, Audrey Saunders), and author-journalists (David Wondrich, gaz regan) employed UBC’s innovative multi-stage scoring system that determined the best of the best entries.

Said UBC Judging Chairman and Managing Partner F. Paul Pacult, “It’s clear that a perfect storm of superbly qualified judges, meticulous and innovative methodology, the state-of-the-art clinical environment of Astor Center, and a gifted operational staff helped usher in a new era of beverage alcohol competitive evaluation. I’m looking forward to 2011 already.”

The Chairman Trophy winners and Semifinalists for the 2010 Ultimate Spirits Challenge are:

Ultimate Spirits Challenge Chairman’s Trophy Winners & Semifinalists 2010

Vodka & Aquavit
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: Orzel Vodka (Poland)
Semifinalists: Skyy Vodka (USA)
Vermont White Vodka (USA)
Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka (Finland)
Gin & Genever
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: Broker’s London Dry Gin (England)
Semifinalists: Beefeater 24 Gin (England)
Citadelle 2009 Reserve Gin (France)
Tanqueray London Dry Gin (England)
Tequila & Mezcal
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: Tres Agaves Anejo Tequila (Mexico)
Semifinalists: Sambra Mezcal, (Mexico)
Don Pilar Anejo Tequila (Mexico)
Del Maguey Tobala Single Village Mezcal (Mexico)
Rum & Cachaça
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: Mount Gay Rum 1703 (Barbados)
Semifinalists: Zafra 21 Year Old Rum (Panama)
J. Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum (Jamaica)
Bacardi 8 Years Old Rum (Puerto Rico)
Ireland & Wales Whiskey
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: Midleton Very Rare 2008 Blended Irish Whiskey (Ireland)
Semifinalists: Connemara 12 Year Old Peated Single Malt Whiskey (Ireland)
Bushmills 1608 Single Malt Whiskey (Ireland)
Redbreast 12 Years Old Pure Pot Still Whiskey (Ireland)
Scotland Whisky
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: The Macallan Fine Oak 21 Year Old Malt Whisky (Scotland)
Semifinalists: Johnnie Walker Gold 18 Year Old Blended Whisky (Scotland)
Royal Salute 21 Year Old Blended Whisky (Scotland)
Glenmorangie Signet Single Malt Whisky (Scotland)
US & Canada Whiskey
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey (USA)
Semifinalists: Sazerac 18 Year Old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (USA)
Crown Royal XR Blended Canadian Whisky (Canada)
Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA)
World Brandy, Grappa & Eau-de-Vie
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: Nonino Grappa Il Merlot (Italy)
Semifinalists: Macchu Pisco (Peru)
Bartlett Spirits of Maine Apple Brandy (USA)
Giovi Clear Brandy of Cactus Pear (Italy)
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: Frapin Chateau Fontpinot XO Grande Champagne Cognac (France)
Semifinalists: Landy XO Cognac (France)
Pierre Ferrand Selection des Anges Grande Champagne Cognac (France)
Hennessy XO Cognac (France)
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: Chateau du Busca-Maniban Hors d’Age
Tenareze-Armagnac (France)
Semifinalists: Chateau de Laubade 1960 Bas-Armagnac (France)
Marie Duffau Hors d’Age Bas-Armagnac (France)
Cles des Ducs VSOP Armagnac (France)
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: Boulard Grand Solage Pays d’Auge Calvados (France)
Semifinalists: Coeur de Lion Hors d’Age Pays d’Auge Calvados (France)
Roger Groult 8 Year Old Pays d’Auge Calvados (France)
World Liqueurs, Absinthes & Other
Chairman’s Trophy Winner: St Germain Elderflower Liqueur (France)
Semifinalists: Herbsaint Original Liqueur d’Anis (France)
Bauchant Orange Liqueur (France)
Mathilde Raspberry Frambroise (France)
For a complete list of all results and scores please go to: 
Founded by award-winning journalist, author, educator and critic F. Paul Pacult, wine and spirits publishing industry veteran David Talbot, and Spirit Journal managing editor Sue Woodley, Ultimate Beverage Challenge is now providing both the industry and consumers with a clear and unassailable indication of beverage alcohol quality, in terms that are readily accessible.

Ultimate Cocktail Challenge, in which spirits and wines will be judged on how well they perform in classic cocktails, occurs on April 12-14, 2010.
• The inaugural Ultimate Wine Challenge, for the evaluation of fine still, sparkling, and fortified wines, will be held on June 7-11, 2010.

For more information on all three 2010 UBC competitions, for help with entry forms, for complete Ultimate Spirits Challenge scores, please go to or call 1-347-878-6551.

F. Paul Pacult noses spirits at Astor Center.

Elsewhere in the Liquiverse

  • BarSmarts Wired is now open for registration through March 31. Created by Beverage Alcohol Resource and Pernod Ricard USA, the online bartender training program is available for two-month intervals twice a year. While BarSmarts Advanced is invitation-only, the Wired version is open to any bar enthusiast 21 and older. The $45 course fee includes a messenger bag packed with essential bar tools, shipped to you whether you pass the course or not.
  • For reasons yet unknown, Audrey Saunders has left her helm at the Tar Pit in L.A. She told The New York Times that she and the other bar owners disagreed over the swanky retro bar’s promotion: “It’s not our style to promote our beverage program through cable programs, etc — and that became a stumbling block for us.”
  • New York sales of Fernet Branca jumped 50 percent in 2009, undoubtedly thanks to NYC’s cocktail community–but the saturation here still doesn’t match San Francisco, which drinks more than half of the Fernet sold in the entire U.S.!
  • Save the dates for the first-ever Ultimate Beverage Challenge series, starting with the Ultimate Spirits Challenge at Astor Center on March 1-3, followed by the Ultimate Cocktail Challenge on April 12-14. For the cocktail challenge, spirit and wine categories will be meticulously mixed in classic cocktails to determine which ones work best, such as the best gin in a dry martini. The judging panel will include founder F. Paul Pacult, Jacques Bezuidenhout, Dale DeGroff, Steve Olson, Julie Reiner, Audrey Saunders, Jim Meehan, Doug Frost, Andy Seymour, David Wondrich and more.
  • Liquor industry giant Diageo is leading efforts to stop New York grocery stores from selling wine, as proposed in a current bill from Gov. Paterson.
  • Today is National Margarita Day! I like mine spicy:

Spicy Cucumber Margarita by Kara Newman, author of “Spice & Ice“:

1/2 small cucumber, peeled and cubed
1 slice jalapeno pepper, minced
1 ounce reposado tequila
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1 small jalapeno or cucumber or lime wheel for garnish

In a shaker, muddle the cucumber and jalapeno. Add all liquid ingredients, and fill halfway with ice. Shake well, for at least 30 seconds or more, then strain twice into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the small chili pepper or cucumber or lime wheel.

Photo from