what: El Jorge
where: Rosso Trattoria, 4840 Forest Dr., 787-3949
Last weekend, City Roots hosted another cocktail challenge. Instead of the blank canvas of vodka as the base spirit, this competition featured Casamigos Tequila, a small batch, 100 percent agave tequila, heavily branded with the celebrity of its co-founder, George Clooney.
Bartenders representing Bourbon, Goatfeathers, Henry’s, Kelly’s, Motor Supply Co., The Oak Table, Rosso, Saki Tumi, Saluda’s, Speakeasy, Terra and The Whig served unique cocktails incorporating Casamigos, along with a local ingredient and whatever else they wished. (I served as one of the judges, along with Anne Postic of Fig Columbia, Susan Ardis of The State and Casamigos brand ambassador Maria Lehman.)
With each event, the competition seems to get tougher. Some of the most elaborate and creative cocktails proved divisive with my fellow judges, but two cocktails emerged at the top of our scorecards when the numbers were tallied. Once again, Rosso and Bourbon got the highest marks from the judges. (The popular vote went to Saki Tumi’s Sunset Beet.)
This week’s featured drink is from Rosso. General manager Mandi Ranalli says she started by infusing Casamigos Reposado with habaneros, but found the heat to be too intense. She added a cardamom-infused blood orange shrub she made from scratch, along with some Cannonborough ginger beer from Charleston. Even with the acidulation of the vinegar in the shrub, and the dilution with soda, the habanero infusion still gave off too much heat. A splash of prosecco proved the finishing touch that brought it into balance. It was served over a frozen habanero encased in a king cube of ice.
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