Apricot Mustard, Chamomile Buds and Dry Shake Are Not Just Cool Band Names

Courtesy M&C Saatchi PR
Courtesy M&C Saatchi PR

Last week,  Houston Hall hosted the 4th Annual Bärenjäger Bartender Competition. Since Bärenjäger is spelled with Germanic umlauts; Houston Hall was transformed into a true slice of 'Little Bavaria.'

What you might be wondering is:

* A) What's Bärenjäger?

Bärenjäger - Is a honey liqueur that originated in Germany, taking its flavor notes and consistency profile from an 15th century mead recipe. Today it's made from neutral grain alcohol and pure premium natural honey from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, brought to us by the Sidney Frank Importing Co.

The master of ceremonies for this event was Sidney Frank's principal bartender, Todd Richman, who some consider the Ryan Seacrest of the Spirit's industry. Also on deck were The Ja Ja Jas playing traditional Polka music and covering a few Top Forty hits. All of this gave patrons, bartenders and judges an Oktoberfest in September to remember.

However, this competition was a serious, multi-tiered test of the contestants’ skills. Not only were they making drinks for 300 guests, they were being evaluated by a special set of judges. For this competition, Sidney Frank tapped the very best mixologists/cocktail gurus in the industry. Plus a surprise judge:

Barenjager Abeja Libre by Adam Murphy, courtesy M & C Saatchi PR
Barenjager Abeja Libre by Adam Murphy, courtesy M & C Saatchi PR

Jim Meehan from (PDT) NYC

Dushan Zaric (Employees Only & Macao Trading Co.) NYC

Tricia Alley, Southern Wine & Spirits' Director of Mixology, California

Sean Kenyon (Williams & Graham) Denver

Wilmer Valderrama from That 70's Show

From all points East, West and Internet, bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts (like myself) submitted various drink expressions using Bärenjäger for the chance to win $1,000.00 (Crowd Favorite) or First Prize - an all-expense paid trip to Berlin!

Out of the hundred of submissions only six were found worthy:

Kuma 375 by Charles Tappen Jr.

Abeja Libre by Adam Murphy

Bären-Liger by Stuart N. Jensen

Beer Hunter by Naomi Levy

Dancing Bare by David Shenaut

Good Ice by Jessica Dure

The judges reviewed the style, technique and cocktail of each bartender on a variety of subjects - taste, presentation, originality and the use of Bärenjäger in said cocktail. What one contestant could win points with - professional presentation -  another could lose points on taste or originality. As mentioned, the judges are experts on what makes a cocktail great, what drinks will bring customers back to the bar and how one poorly-measured ingredient can ruin a drink. In this case, the judges (and the crowd) chose two outstanding women as the winners. First place went to Naomi Levy for her Beer Hunter cocktail and the Crowd Favorite award (a check for $1,000.00) went to NYC favorite Jessie Dure.

BEER Here:

With its use of homemade Apricot Mustard*, and topped with Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, this cocktail managed to strike a proper balance - becoming a pleasant-tasting, effervescent drink. Beer cocktails tend to be tricky, but the hints of Banana and cloves (from the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier) mixed well with the Bärenjäger and Irish Whiskey.

FIRST PLACE - Naomi Levy from Cambridge, MA


Barenjäger Good Ice cocktail by Jessica Duré, courtesy M & C Saatchi PR
Barenjäger Good Ice cocktail by Jessica Duré, courtesy M & C Saatchi PR

1 ½ oz. Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur

1 oz. Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey

½ oz. Lemon juice

1 Heaping Bar spoon of Apricot Mustard*

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier

Mount all ingredients except for the beer in a pint glass. Add ice and shake. Pour contents into a large stein and top with Weihenstephaner. Serve with a German style pretzel

*Apricot mustard: in a food processor or blender, blend equal parts apricot preserves with spicy Dijon mustard.  If needed, add a splash of cider vinegar if mustard seems too thick.

As GOOD as it Gets:

Side note- This was Jessica Duré's FIRST competition!

This cocktail touched on all the popular notes with the crowd of 300 imbibers. It was a delicious tribute to the Ramos Gin Fizz, utilizing the best aspects of each component to provide a slightly frothy, fruity, yet seriously potent cocktail. It was a cocktail built on Bärenjäger's sweetness and Jessica's 'out of the shaker' thinking. Watching Jessica pour, measure, shake and strain with a steady hand while the judges looked on was truly impressive.

CROWD FAVORITE - JESSICA DURÉ from Brooklyn, NYC Currently working at American Whiskey, NYC


Wilmer Valderrama poses with winner Naomi Levy, courtest M & C Saatchi PR
Wilmer Valderrama poses with winner Naomi Levy, courtest M & C Saatchi PR

¾ oz. Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur

½ oz. Perry's Tot Navy Strength Gin

¼ oz. lemon

Barspoon crushed chamomile buds

1 Egg white

2 oz. Cidre de Normandie

Combine all ingredients except Cidre de Normandie. Dry shake. Add ice and shake. Double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.  Add Cider to the large tin containing the remaining ice. Give it a quick swirl and double strain into coupe to top. Garnish with angostura and a thin lemon wheel dropped in.