Local mixologists are competitive. No fewer than 35 from Hong Kong and Macau entered this year's De Kuyper Cup Hong Kong Championship Cocktail Competition, organised by the Hong Kong Bartenders Association recently at The Backyard at the Langham Place Hotel Mong Kok.
The panel of judges - including me - sat outside on a hot afternoon with the tall order of picking a winner to represent the association in the Cocktail World Championship, organised by the International Bartenders Association, in Beijing in October.
Have you ever tried to drink 35 cocktails at a sitting? Actually, make that 43, because the eight finalists were all tasted again. Not easy. Spittoons were not provided, so we judges sipped sparingly, and for an encouragingly large number of the cocktails, that involved a bit of restraint.
Each contestant was required to prepare their cocktail in front of the judges, who awarded marks for taste, aroma, appearance, creative originality and presentation.
The eventual winner, Langham Place's Jackie Lo Suet-kwan, was cheered on by friends and colleagues on her home turf. As the competition was sponsored by Seapower, the importer of De Kuyper liqueurs, each contestant had to use at least one De Kuyper product in their cocktail. Clearly, the most popular was the Mandarine Napoleon Orange Liqueur.
'I wanted something cool and refreshing with an interesting use of ice,' Lo says. 'There are three layers of ice - the first layer is cube ice, the middle layer is dry ice and the top layer is chipped ice. I decided to call it Mandarine Pearl, so the glass is presented on a plate which resembles an oyster shell.'
Recipe 40ml Mandarine Napoleon
30ml fresh mango juice
1 slice of fresh pineapple
2 lime leaves
2 dashes of orange bitters
Muddle pineapple and lime leaves in a shaker. Add the liqueur, mango juice and ice, and shake. Pour the mixed juice into a glass with ice cubes. Add the orange bitters and top up with champagne, then the dry ice, if available, then the crushed ice. Garnish with a slice of dried orange, pierced by a straw decorated with a spiral of dried orange peel and serve.