December 2010

‘Tis the Season


The cocktail Speed Tasters, left to right: Marc Smith of Shangri-La Hotel; Boe Trumbull of SBE Group; THE TASTING PANEL’s Anthony Dias Blue; Claudia Maia, Beverage Director for the Richard Sandoval Group (including Zengo); Mark Schwarz of The Wine House in Los Angeles; and Alex Carlton, founder of Funkin.
THE TASTING PANEL has been making the rounds in the realm of spirits with our signature Speed Tastings, but this time, we decided to put brands and mixologists to the ultimate test in our ver y first cocktail Speed Tasting. We wrangled 12 of the hottest spirits brands out there and put them to the challenge: Using Funkin fruit purées, wow our elite panel of judges with a specially-created seasonal cocktail that will keep them warm on those long wintry nights.

Here’s our report on why these cocktails have seasonality, personality and Funkinality, along with our panel’s notes.  


Mixologist Jay Milliken and VeeV’s Katarina Balalas.
 VeeV, the world's first açaí spirit, is making strides in the spirits world with an emphasis on both health benefits and sustainability, thanks to antioxidant-rich (and mega-flavorful) açaí fruit and a wind energy-driven carbon-neutral footprint. SoCal Market Manager Katarina Balalas explains that this cocktail is a perfect fit for busy bars as well: "It's a very simple drink with limited ingredients, and it's easy to make at high-volume accounts."

SEASONALITY: "I think berry as a flavor resonates well with the holidays, and the rich, dark color and the viscosity of the cocktail is more geared toward winter time. Easily an early evening drink." -Mark Schwarz

PERSONALITY: "Seamless, juicy and delicious." -Anthony Dias Blue

FUNKINALITY "VeeV, being made with açai, is a perfect pair with the Funkin Blueberry." -Marc Smith


• 2 oz. VeeV Açaí Spirit
• 1 oz. Funkin Blueberry purée
• ¾ oz. fresh lime juice
• ½ oz. simple syrup
• Blueberry skewer for garnish

Patrón XO Café

Two of life's simplest pleasures are tequila and coffee; when these two indulgences are brought together under the Patrón name, perfection is the product. A special blend of ultra-premium Patrón tequila and the natural essence of coffee, XO Café is rich, layered and indulgent.

SEASONALITY: "Coffee liqueurs are generally a colder-month product, but this is also a wonderful winter dessert!" -Claudia Maia

PERSONALITY: "The añejo brings a bit more oaky flavor, and the black coffee liqueur marries well with the raspberry. It's like eating blackberry espresso cake." -Boe Trumbull

FUNKINALITY: Funkin Blackberry purée was a natural pair with XO Café's dark, dreamy complexity. "The Funkin blackberry purée and coffee flavors are incredibly complementary." -Marc Smith

Patrón XO's Blackberry Cream cocktail.
The Blackberry Cream

• ¾ oz. Funkin Blackberrypurée
• ½ oz. heavy cream
• ½ oz. Patrón XO Café
• ½ oz. Patrón Añejo tequila

Shake, strain and serve over Gläce Mariko Ice sphere, garnish with blackberry.

Rock Saké

The saké category has been slowly but surely staking its claim in the hearts of U.S. consumers. These days, tongues are wagging about Rock Saké, a super-premium American-made brand that's carving a niche for itself thanks in part to its easily pronounceable, memorable name. Offered in two varieties, Junmai Gingo and Cloud (the brand's take on the classic nigori saké style), Rock Saké has quickly become a mixology favorite as well, with a particular emphasis on the Cloud expression in cocktails.

Jessica Blafer and Seth Podell of Rock Saké.
Rock Saké Founder Seth Podell and Los Angeles Brand Representative Jessica Blafer put their brains together to come up with the recipe for this saké cocktail and found that the lightly sweetened creaminess of the Cloud was an ideal platform for master mixology.

"This is a cozy cocktail; it's like a warm fleece blanket." -Meridith May

"Because the Cloud holds flavors very well, it's perfect with the pear, and the creaminess goes well with vanilla. A sip-tastic choice and I love the hints of cinnamon and supple sweet aromas." -Boe Trumbull

"The William Pear Funkin was a superb choice to use in the cocktail. Smooth and spicy." -Anthony Dias Blue


Ginger Pear Sakétini

• 2½ oz. Rock Saké Cloud
• 1 oz. Funkin William Pear purée
• Splash of Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
• Splash of vanilla vodka
• Squeeze of lime

Garnish with a slice of Asian pear, sprinkled with cinnamon. Serve over Gläce G Cubed ice.

Hennessy Black

When the storied house of Hennessy released its first new cognac in 40 years-one specifically designed for mixability-the spirits world took notice. Now, with what the brand's West Coast Mixologist, Doug DeBeech, calls "Hennessy done different," Hennessy Black is giving bartenders reason to rethink cognac's possibilities.

DeBeech speaks of Hennessy Black as a way to rethink the classics. "Working with a spirit that speaks for itself is amazing," he says. "It is lighter by nature and easier on the palate, making it a great swapper in traditional cocktails."

Hennessy's West Coast Mixologist, Doug DeBeech. 

"Texture is what creates a holiday cocktail and showed rich holiday colors. The pineapple was an extra surprise." -Claudia Maia

PERSONALITY: "This cocktail actually changed my perspective on this brand's viability; definitely a lighter and much more mixable cognac from the clear leader of this category." -Boe Trumbull

FUNKINALITY: "The Funkin Pineapple added a lushness to the drink. Creating a cocktail around this texture is perfect." -Anthony Dias Blue

Hennessy Black Basil

• Splash of basil-infused agave nectar
• 1½ oz. Hennessy Black
• 3 oz. Funkin Pineapple purée

Shake and strain into a Martini glass; add one small glass of Funkin Raspberry purée Garnish with fresh basil leaf and Grand Marnier-soaked basil leaf


With the cachaça category heating up, Sagatiba has sambaed its way into some of the most influential cocktail bars in the country—and in more ways than the classic Caipirinha. Available in Pura, Velha and Preciosa expressions, Sagatiba has found a home in a variety of classically-envisioned cocktails. The Velha, behind the strength of its fruity and full-bodied mixability, has won over Damian Windsor of Los Angeles cocktail hotspot The Roger Room; he describes it as having “fire with an elegant edge. The aging is perfect.”
Damian Windsor of Los Angeles cocktail hotspot The Roger Room was the mixologist behind Sagatiba’s Christmas in Brazil cocktail.
Although the Christmas tree–like rosemary garnish channels the season very clearly from a visual perspective, there’s more to it than that. “In the Southern Hemisphere, where cachaça is made, it is hot during Christmas,” explains Windsor. “So here, you’ve got a blend of both hemispheres: Northern with the cinnamon and wine, and Southern with the texture and aromatics.”

SEASONALITY: Exquisitely prepared and executed. A 100-point score.” —Anthony Dias Blue

PERSONALITY: “This cocktail is off the chart; sign me up. Cool, refreshing, inspired, beautiful, balanced and crisp.” —Boe Trumbull

FUNKINALITY: “The Funkin William Pear purée has exactly the same taste and color as fresh pears. An extraordinary cocktail and so complex.” —Marc Smith

Christmas in Brazil
• 2 oz. Sagatiba Velha
• 3 oz. Funkin William Pear purée
• 1 oz. Funkin lime juice
• 1 oz. cinnamon syrup
• ¾ oz. red wine reduction
• Combine ingredients, blend with bar ice. Garnish with a gold-flaked rosemary sprig.

Belvedere Pink Grapefruit

Belvedere is thinking pink these days with its fruity, aromatic Pink Grapefruit vodka offering (Belvedere Black Raspberry, Orange and Citrus round out the flavored pack), but this is no one-note vodka. Made with fresh ginger as well as premium grapefruit, Belvedere Pink Grapefruit manages to straddle the line between sweet and spicy, fruity and flavorful.

Jason Bran, another standout bartender at The Roger Room, found Belvedere Pink Grapefruit an ideal offering for mixing with bold flavors like clove. “The vodka can stand up to it,” he says.

SEASONALITY: “Because the vodka is made from ginger, when combined with even a little bit of the clove, it really channels those spicy flavors of the winter season.” —Anthony Dias Blue

PERSONALITY: “Sexy and feminine. The pomegranate purée works wonders with the pink grapefruit notes.” —Mark Schwarz

FUNKINALITY: “The Funkin Pomegranate wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be, and reads just like a pomegranate juice.” —Claudia Maia
Jason Bran from L.A.’s Roger Room was the genius behind Belvedere Pink Vodka’s cocktail, The Good Duker.

The Good Duker
• 1 ½ oz. Belvedere Pink Grapefruit vodka
• ¼ oz. Funkin Pomegranate purée
• ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
• ½ oz. rich simple syrup (made in a 2:1 ratio)
• ½ oz. frothed egg white
• Shake, strain and pour. Garnish with ground clove.


With TY KU’s success in the saké and liqueur categories already assured, the brand has undertaken the challenge of breaking a virtually unknown category to the U.S. consumer: soju. With lower calorie-counts and greater health benefits than vodka, TY KU Soju has found a comfortable home on cocktail menus nationwide. “It’s a perfect fit in cocktails because it acts as a natural flavor catalyst,” explains Debra Stone, SoCal Brand Development Manager at TY KU. “Soju expands whatever flavor it is being mixed with.”

Freelance mixologist Drew Taylor.
Freelance mixologist Drew Taylor was new to soju when he began to work with TY KU on some cocktails, but he was a quick convert to its merits. “The lower alcohol content in soju allows me to play a little bit more with the cocktail,” he explains. “I can mix it with more spirits and put more things in the cocktail–with a lot of spirits you have to go lighter to balance things.”

SEASONALITY: With a low-cal spirit and quality ingredients, for Taylor, less is more. “I wanted to think a little bit more health-conscious—especially around the holidays, to combat the overindulging.”

PERSONALITY: “I like the savory aspect of this drink.” —Marc Smith

FUNKINALITY: Drew Taylor was the only brand rep to highlight Funkin Cherry. “I think cherry is an underused flavor in cocktails, and here, it was a good contrast with the spiciness of the herbs.”  

Japanese Sunset
• 2 oz. Funkin Maraschino Cherry purée
• 1½ oz. TU KU Soju
• 1 celery stick
• 4 sprigs cilantro
• 4 basil leaves
• ¼ oz. lavender simple syrup
• Squeeze of half a lime
Muddle celery, cilantro, basil, simple syrup and lime juice. Add remaining ingredients, shake and double-strain. Top with soda and sprig of celery top garnish.

Ice Matters

Attention, mixologists: Ice is an ingredient in your cocktail. And like everything else that goes into your drink, you want nothing but the best, each and every time, right? Well, now you can have quality and consistency in every sip, thanks to Gläce Luxury Ice, a super-premium ice brand that’s here to make your cocktail the best it can be. “It doesn’t make sense to have a cocktail with premium ingredients, and then use well ice,” explains Gläce Founder Roberto Sequeira. “People work really hard to make sure customers have a consistent experience, and ice is an important part of that.” Gläce’s cold consistency comes in G Cubed and Mariko Sphere offerings.

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