May 2012

Monteru Cocktail Competition

By: David Gadd
photos by Christine Merson


Franck Vigneron, President of Cognac Comandon and Monteru (center), with the contestants (left to right): Brian Summers, Julian Cox, Naomi Schimek, Conor O'Brian, Zach Patterson and Pablo Moix.
The Monteru Single Brandy portfolio.

A half dozen of the top mixology talents in Los Angeles gathered one Monday in April at the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills to showcase their skills in using Monteru Single Brandy. Inspired by the success of single-varietal wines, Monteru is a collection of brandies each made from a single grape variety: Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. As Franck Vigneron, President of Comandon Cognac and Monteru, explains: "If you have a hundred pictures to email to someone, you don't send them a hundred pictures-you 'zip' them. These are 'zipped' varietals."

When Monteru was presented last year to the SLS Hotel's own mixologists, the in-house team quickly understood the concept and began incorporating the single brandies into their house cocktails. "Sommeliers have been pairing single varietal wines with food for years," says Vigneron; "now mixologists are able to pair single varietal brandy with specific cocktail applications." Inspired by the creativity they witnessed at the SLS, Vigneron and his own team decided to partner with the SLS to host this special competition.

Stepping up to the plate were Julian Cox of Playa and Rivera, Pablo Moix of La Descarga, Conor O'Brien of the SLS, Zach Patterson of Bagatelle, Brian Summers of Harvard & Stone and Naomi Schimek of The Spare Room in Hollywood. The judges-bar entrepreneur Aiden Demerest of Neat; writer Jessica Gelt of The Los Angeles Times; Mark Schwartz, spirits buyer for The Wine House; Franck Vigneron, President of Comandon Cognac and Monteru; and your truly-were presented with six stunning creations, each featuring one of the Monteru Single Brandies. First prize: a trip to Cognac, where Monteru is produced. 

Naomi Schimek's winning Alsace Cobbler.
Both the camaraderie and the competition were intense as the mixologists-all friends and colleagues-measured, poured, shook and garnished. After scoring each cocktail on effective use of time, ease of replicability, visual aspects, taste and conceptual connection with Monteru, the judges deliberated long and hard before reaching a final, difficult verdict. In the end, Naomi Schimek triumphed by a short margin with her masterful Alsace Cobbler, using Monteru Single Brandy of Riesling. 

"The mixology contest at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills was a difficult challenge with an amazing all-star line-up of mixologists," concluded Vigneron. "It was great to see these talents embrace so quickly the concept of Single Brandy as they connected it naturally to their cocktails."


Alsace Cobbler
by Naomi Schimek

1 lemon wedge
spring of French tarragon
¾ oz. apricot tea syrup*
2 oz. Monteru Single Brandy of Riesling
8 oz. crushed ice.

Muddle lemon wedge; add French tarragon and muddle lightly on top of the lemon. Add apricot tea syrup, Monteru Single Brandy of Riesling and crushed ice. Roll four to five times and pour all into a large wine goblet. Decorate the top with four or five edible flower petals and a rose made from the peel of one lemon. Mist aromatic essence garnish** twice onto the lemon rose. Serve sans straw. 

*Apricot tea syrup is made by brewing the finest apricot black tea available (I shop at Chado Tea Room), and adding sugar for a 1:1 ratio syrup.
** Aromatic essence made with a base note of benzoin, middle notes of ylang ylang and bergamot and a top note of jasmine.

Naomi Schimek with her winning Alsace Cobbler.

Fleur de Charente

by Zach Patterson

10 Muscat grapes
1 tsp. vanilla sugar
2/3 oz. steam-extracted raspberry juice
2/3 oz. Oro Blanco grapefruit
2/3 oz. Lillet Rouge
1 oz. Dragon Pearl Jasmine Tea
2 tsp. fine dry marsala
3/4 oz. egg white
1½ oz. Monteru Single Brandy of Cabernet
Dash fresh cinnamon

Combine the Muscat grapes and vanilla sugar in mixing tin. Muddle to crush the grape skins. Add the remaining ingredients and shake very well (enough to emulsify the egg white; dry-shake first if needed). Pour over fresh ice in a beautiful Collins glass. Shave fresh cinnamon on top of the drink. Place 1 bright red raspberry ice cube* on top to garnish. Add a small bunch of champagne grapes as well as 1 white rose petal to finish the garnish.

*Freeze some of the steam-extracted raspberry juice in silicon molds. Gives a great visual appearance as well as keeps the drink lively as it slowly melts. 

The Merlot Down
by Brian Summers

2 muddled strawberries
3/8 oz. lime
3/8 oz. lemon
3/4 oz. berry-rhubarb-Merlot reduction*
1½ oz. Monteru Single Brandy of Merlot

Shake. Add 1 oz. fever tree soda water to tin. Strain onto hand-cracked rock in large stemless Bordeaux glass. Garnish with mint leaf.
*A slow, soulful reduction of French Merlot, a little water, fresh strawberries, fresh rhubarb, fresh raspberries, hibiscus flowers, fresh wild rose hips and cane sugar to sweeten. 

Mt. Chardonnay
by Pablo Moix

Lavender Labyrinth
by Conor O'Brien

2 oz. Monteru Single Brandy of Chardonnay
½ oz. lemon Juice
½ oz. orange Juice
1 oz. chardonnay-lavender reduction*
½ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. Bonal Gentiane-Quina (quinine aperitif)

Shake and serve over ice. Add frozen grapes and kumquats. Garnish with an orchid ice sphere and a sprig of lavender.

*Combine 1 bottle Chardonnay, 1 handful lavender, 1 full orange peel and around 10 kumquats. Allow to simmer and reduce for around an hour. 

by Julian Cox

Named for the French children's song, the Alouette is a complex blend of Monteru Single Brandy of Riesling, fino sherry, Yellow Chartreuse, yuzu and agave nectar.

"Every cocktail should have a nose, a body and a finish," says Julian Cox.

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