I've been trying to recall a good example of how much of a goody-two-shoes I was during my grade-school days. Kids called me "the A girl," in second grade I wrote a short story about a botanist, and once during a 7th-grade-wide trivia competition, I avoided elimination by successfully (and accurately, ahem) convincing the MC (my math teacher, I believe) that a peanut is, in fact, a legume. Take that, coolness!
Try as I might, though, I can't think of anything nerdy enough to compare to the eight-page dossier presented by my friend and Le LAB bartender Gabrielle to the panel of judges at Montreal Bar vs. Chef, her completely unrequired, written dissertation for the cocktail that, as it turned out, took first place. (Eight pages = first place. Must remember that for next time.)
In the weeks before the competition, Gabrielle told me she was considering a cocktail on the theme of Quebec ingredients. I'd actually toyed with the idea, too, until it became apparent that, beyond maple syrup and certain fruits (Quebec strawberries NOM), I didn't know enough to put them to best use. Really, anything I could've come up with would've been put to shame by Gabrielle's creation.
I think it's clear that Gab won because her cocktail was elegantly simple in presentation yet wildly complex in taste, with an impressively reasoned philosophy behind each ingredient:
Appleton Reserve Rum: Because they were sponsoring the contest, a-doy.
Gin Ungava: Made near Montreal in the touristy Eastern Townships using local herbs, "it brings to my cocktail that which the rum cannot: freshness, herbaceousness, acidity. Complementing the rum, it cannot offer a more beautiful contrast."
San Perrino Vermouth, a red-apple vermouth made just outside the city at la Maison des Futailles: "This aperitif is soft on the palate with a beautiful acidity and depth... It brings a balance between my spirits."
Labrador tea, aka Hudson's Bay or Indian tea, another Canadian specialty: "I wanted to reinforce the astringency of my recipe, and at the same time, balance it out."
Maple water: "To sweeten my recipe, I chose to use maple. I made a maple water (much less sweet than the syrup). I wanted to create a relatively dry cocktail, while maintaining a subtle maple flavor."
Lemon juice: "To achieve the perfect balance."
Homemade apple bitters: "I chose Angostura bitters as a base because I appreciate the character and depth it brings to the rum."
Clearly, Gab gets an A++ (or a check-plus-plus, remember those?) -- I mean, she had different ingredients going on down to the quarter-ounce. And, save the Angostura, she really did manage to keep all of her ingredients, alcoholic ou non, local.
In actuality, Gab gets a trip for two to Jamaica, which was the first-place prize. And, of course, when the A++ girl throws off the curve for the rest of us underachievers, what we get is homework. So pay attention, class! This recipe's involved. You may have to stay late.
1 ounce Appleton Reserve Rum
1/2 ounce Gin Ungava
1/4 ounce San Perrino vermouth
1/2 ounce Labrador tea
1/4 ounce maple water
1 dash freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 dashes homemade apple bitters
Apple slices, to garnish
Put all ingredients in a chilled mixing glass, add ice and stir thoroughly. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a pair of apple slices.
To make the homemade apple bitters, I'm gonna give it to you straight from the future Jamaican tourist's mouth, which came out of said mouth in the form of milliliters. (Convert to ounces here.): Mix together 100 ml Angostura bitters, 45 ml apple brandy (she used Michel Jodoin), 30 ml Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters, 30 ml Absinthe 55 and 15 ml smoked bitters. Cut up three-quarters of a Granny Smith apple into small cubes and add to the mixture. Gently mash apples with a pestle. Let steep for three weeks in a dark place. Filter before using.
Making maple water: You're basically making a maple simple syrup by boiling down equal parts water and pure, granulated maple sugar. Gab told me she also steeped some juniper berries while this mixture cooked down. Because she is an extra credit-bogarting geek. Just kidding.