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In May, The Bungalow Restaurant, a popular Newport Beach area establishment for over sixteen years, invited all local professional and amateur mixologists and home bartenders to submit an original cocktail recipe for their first quarterly cocktail competition. With warm summer months and seasonal produce in mind, recipes were to include a muddling step using seasonal ingredients. Four finalists were selected for the Happy Hour showdown where they created their concoctions for a panel of four judges who named a winner based on creativity, unique ingredients and flavor.
Located on Coast Highway in Corona del Mar, the Bungalow is a favorite of locals and visitors to the area who, if they dropped by last Thursday to wet their whistle with one of the Bungalow’s famous martinis, had a hard time finding a seat or bellying up to the bar as last Thursday’s Summer Muddled Cocktail Contest drew a full house of regulars, cheering friends, and local media. Not one to turn down a cocktail invitation, I was there with Terri Williams of Great Taste magazine, who joined Susan Belknapp of the OC Metro and two other Orange County expert tasters front and center for the tough job of judging the creative libations. With iPhone in hand and waning sunlight washing the dimly lit intimate bar area, I wedged my way between onlookers to capture some of the action.
Benjamin Webb (above), 32, of Corona del Mar, wowed the judges with his mixology chops and the resulting complex flavors in his cocktail: The Mifflin. Here he shows the judges the bottle of BarKeep Fennel Bitters which is the key ingredient in “The Mifflin”. The African basil, which he slaps to wake up the flavors, is from his neighbor’s garden. The drink also features tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, orange liqueur, grapefruit and lime juices. Benjamin garnered first place and went home with a $250 gift card.
The Mifflin, 1st place
Recipe by Benjamin Webb, Corona del Mar
- Purple basil leaves
- 1/2 ounce FRUITLAB Orange Liqueur (or other orange liqueur)
- 1 1/2 ounce IXA Tequila (or another silver, 100 percent agave tequila)
- 1/2 ounce Yellow Chartreuse
- 1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
- 3/4 ounce lime juice
- 1 dash BarKeep Fennel Bitters
- Club Soda – to taste, generally about an ounce
- Garnish: Purple Basil Leaf
Glassware: Either a Collins glass with ice cubes or a coupe glass, drink served neat.
In a shaker, lightly muddle basil with orange liqueur. Add tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, grapefruit and lime juices and bitters. Shake with ice. Double strain into desired glassware, top with club soda. Stir, garnish and serve.
If you favor bourbon, as I do, you’ll go crazy for Brent Evans’ “Home Before Sunrise” with homemade rhubarb syrup. I loved his cheeky name and Buffalo Trace just happens to be my favorite bourbon
Home Before Sunrise, 2nd place
Recipe by Brent Evans, Costa Mesa
- 2 slices Fresh ginger root
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 1/2 ounces housemade rhubarb syrup (see note below)
- 2 ounces Buffalo Trace Bourbon
- 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
- Garnish: Raspberry and a candied ginger stick
Glassware: Old fashioned glass
In a shaker, muddle ginger and bitters in rhubarb syrup. Add remaining ingredients. Fill shaker 2/3 full with ice and shake. Double strain into glass with ice, garnish and serve.
For housemade rhubarb syrup: Rough chop 1 pound fresh rhubarb. Add to a pot with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes or until rhubarb breaks down. Strain through cheesecloth into a separate pot. Add 1 cup sugar then bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. Stir occasionally until sugar dissolves. Let cool. Add 1 tablespoon vodka, bottle and refrigerate. Can be kept up to a week.
Third place went to Ari Moshayedi of Corona del Mar with “The Bayside”, a lovely twist on the margarita with a hint of anise from muddled tarragon.
The Bayside, 3rd place
Ari Moshayedi, Corona del Mar
- 10 large tarragon sprigs
- 3 limes, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup blue agave nectar
- 3/4 cup tequila
- 3/4 cup Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 12 ounces club soda
Glassware: Pitcher for mixing
Muddle tarragon sprigs, lime slices and agave nectar in a large pitcher. Add tequila, Cointreau, lemon juice and club soda. Add ice and stir to combine. Serve over ice in the glass of your choice.
And last, but not least…
For a party in your mouth, try Laurel Chowdhury’s “OC Garden Party”. Laurel emphasized how easy this cocktail is to make and the combined flavors of cucumber vodka, raspberries and fresh lime is definitely a winner for the scorching days ahead!
OC Garden Party, 4th place
Laurel Chowdhury, Laguna Niguel
- 2 ounces cucumber vodka (such as Crop Organic)
- 1/4 ounce St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
- 5 fresh raspberries
- 6 mint leaves
- 1/4 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
- Club soda
Glassware: Collins glass
Muddle first five ingredients in cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake. Strain into a Collins glass with ice and top with club soda. Garnish with mint sprig and/or cucumber spear.
Enjoy and, please, drink responsibly.
If you think you have a special finesse when it comes to creating cocktails, stay tuned to The Bungalow Restaurant’s Facebook page for future cocktail competitions – they plan on having them quarterly.
2441 East Coast Highway
Corona del Mar, CA 92625