It was a warm, sunny afternoon as five bartenders prepared to do friendly battle at the Casa Dragones Jamming Session. The event, held at the Rum Line at the Loews Miami Beach hotel, challenged some of Miami's hottest mixologists to create a summer cocktail with the premium tequila's new blanco tequila.
The Rum Line's Robert Ferrara hosted the well-attended event, and ChatChow TV's Gio Gutierrez, the Miami Herald's Fred Gonzalez, and yours truly, Laine Doss, were tasked with judging a hand-crafted cocktail from each of the five talented bar professionals, including Gui Jaroschy (Broken Shaker), Isaac Grillo (Repour Bar at the Albion Hotel), Anna Robbins (Coyo Taco), Bryan Canales (Bodega Taqueria y Tequila), and Richard Monis (Prime Fish).
Each cocktail was scored for name and recipe originality, drinkability, and appearance. At stake? A $1,000 grand prize.
Gui Jaroschy was up first, making his Double Dragon. Named for the classic videogame, the cocktail used a bell pepper shrub, rose-infused Dolin Blanc, and Casa Dragones blanco. Garnished with dried rosebuds, the cocktail was tart, refreshing, and floral.
Anna Robbins used a lime paleta as the inspiration for her Anna Bananna PaletaRita. The cooling cocktail used the paleta both as ingredient and garnish for this take on a banana margarita. Finished with sal de gusano (Mexican worm salt), the drink was earthy, sweet, tart, and refreshing for a hot Miami afternoon.
Bryan Canales' Pico y Picante used cucumbers, cilantro, and jalapeños to play off the tequila. Garnished with cucumbers, the cocktail started sweet, then was cooled by the slight bite of the peppers.
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Richard Monis also used cucumber and jalapeño in his Dragon Slayer cocktail. Monis said he prefers to balance the florals in the tequila with heat rather than salt, using the cool heat of the jalapeños to play off the cucumber juice, lime, agave, and basil.
Isaac Grillo utilized house-made mojo jelly and pineapple sage grown in his garden for his cocktail, I'm in Love With the Mojo. The zingy, fruity, and slightly spicy cocktail won points for creativity all around and earned Grillo first place in the competition.
Gui Jaroschy took second place, winning a bottle of Casa Dragones Joven. Bryan Canales, the third-place winner, took home a bottle of Casa Dragones Blanco. If you want to try Grillo's winning cocktail or any of the other fine drinks, they will be served at the bartenders' respective bars and restaurants throughout April.