Last week at the bar 67 Orange in Harlem, New York, I helped judge Cognac D'USSE's annual Culture Cocktails competition.
The contest pulled six competitors from local Harlem bars and they, friends and neighbors packed into this tiny cocktail bar for the competition. And I do mean packed - the bar's capacity is about 35 people and there were over 60 in the room at one point.
The number of people in the bar made the challenges more difficult for the bartenders, because not only did they need to make 4 full-sized cocktails for the three judges and host Collin Appiah, but also sample-sized drinks for everyone in the room. All in 15 minutes.
The six competitors were:
- Karim Bello of Aloft Harlem Hotel
- Jacob Moses of Cedric French Bistro & Bar
- Kwesi Thomas of Chocolat
- Naima Williams of The Park 112
- Eric Binder of Harlem Tavern
- Kashawn Luke of Corner Social
From the six semi-finalists, the judges voted on two finalists to move forward, who were Jacob Moses and Naima Williams. Their final competition was a secret ingredient challenge, and the secret ingredient was guanabana fruit, aka soursop. Not easy!
The voting was close: Naima made a drink that was delicious with sour apple flavors and lemon shrub, while Jacob made a complex, foamy drink with raspberry, pineapple, lime, and St. Germain.
In the end, the judges agreed that Jacob Moses of Cedric French Bistro & Bar was the winner of the 2014 Cognac D'USSE Culture Cocktails Competition. Congratulations to Jacob.