At a Sunday night event featuring bizarro go-go girl oompa loompa hybrids, an old-timey popcorn machine and an announcer named DumpTruck, Oak at Fourteenth's Bryan Dayton and Steuben's Randy Layman proved to be the biggest attraction.
The Bluebird's main floor was turned into a small, makeshift bar for the regional contest of the 42Below Cocktail World Cup competition. A field of mixologists -- or "cocktologists," as they were referred to more than once -- hailing from Boulder, Fort Collins, Denver and beyond kept a crowd of increasingly drunken spectators thirsting for more.
The man with the 'stache and the man with the fancy vest were scored on performance, originality, taste, presentation and overall presentation by judges including Food Network Challenge regular/D Bar Dessert owner Keegan Gerhardt, sommelier William Davis and Bitter Bar/Happy bartender Mark Stoddard. Stoddard had more than a little clout in the judging: Last year, he was part of a three-person American team who won the international competition in New Zealand.
Layman offered a unique cocktail, called "It's Not Easy Being Green" and featuring 42Below's Kiwi Vodka and a cardamom- and tarragon-infused Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur.
Dayton's drink needed more of an explanation, since all we heard about was a garnish of "42Below Kiwi foam topped with a shortbread sandwich filled with foie gras." Wait, what?
"Well, it was submitted right before the holidays," Dayton explained. "That's why it's called '42 Days Til the Holiday.' I always think of excessive craziness as far as wine and drink goes during that time. And I always eat a ton of foie in the holidays, and I thought, 'How do you eat foie?'
"For me, it's with something rich and sweet, but also with something to balance it out," he continued. "So I made the base from quince and apple and 42Below vodka, an ounce of their Manuka Honey vodka, a touch of regular honey, and a little Angostura Bitters. I topped it with a 42Below Kiwi foam and two pieces of poundcake with foie gras in it. It's a full blown cocktail with food."
That kind of creativity helped make Dayton one of the new members of the Denver Five. Their first event will be next month, at Steuben's, with co-victor Layman -- which means that the libation part of the evening will certainly be memorable.
The two regional 42Below winners will head to New York to compete on February 27 for spots on the national team. In the meantime, here are their winning regional recipes: Randy Layman's "It's Not Easy Being Green"
1.5 oz 42 Below Kiwi 1 oz N/Sparkling Apple Juice .5 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth .5 oz Cardamom/Tarragon-infused Luxardo Maraschino .5 oz fresh lime juice
Shake hard and strain into a Collins glass, fill with crushed ice, garnish with tarragon sprig, green apple slices and lime twist.
Bryan Dayton's "42 Days Til The Holiday"
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.5 oz 42Below vodka .5 oz 42Below Menuka Honey vodka .5 oz licor 1 oz persimmon puree .25 oz lemon juice .25 oz honey syrup
Mix and serve in a highball on the rocks. Garnish with 42Below Kiwi Vodka foam and a slice of foie gras on a piece of shortbread. The foam is made with the vodka, bloomed gelatin and egg whites in an iSi Siphon.