Last Monday drew more than 500 attendees to Morgan Manufacturing for our 2nd annual Spirits Portfolio Tasting, a four-hour walk around event showcasing more than 500 premium products in the spirits, beer, and bitters categories. Industry professionals grabbed a nametag and took their time in exploring a total of 48 tables, where producers greeted them to taste through a handful of available offerings, from splashes of bitters and neat sips, to fully developed cocktails.
Sake from Sena, Joto and Pacific International greeted guests immediately as they entered the room, which expanded into selections from The Bitter Truth, Small Hand Syrups, St. George Spirits, and Anchor Distilling Co. A CH Distillery bar sampled original cocktails while tables across the way led attendees into darker spirits, such as cognac from Kelt and Michael Corso, and rhum from Clement and Damoiseau. When attendees needed a break from the educational revelry, they headed outside for carne asada and al pastor tacos from Maxwell Street Market favorite Rubi’s.
While folks mingled their way through 10,500 square feet of tastings in the site’s distillery production room, next door’s distillery plant housed the Tenzing Coupe Cocktail Competition, an event challenging 40 of the city’s most talented bartenders to produce one winning cocktail using only products within the Tenzing Wine & Spirits portfolio. Local hospitality and beverage consulting group Dogma organized the event, which was blindly judged by certified cicerones, certified sommeliers, cocktail industry professionals, and food and drink media members.
Semifinalists were broken into eight heats of five competitors, and they each had five minutes to create their previously submitted and approved cocktail for the judges. After three rounds of judging, Emily Bohn of Blue Island’s Maple Tree Inn took home the first place prize of $3500, along with a glass decanter that she filled with the spirit of her choice. The winning cocktail was the Amber Equinox, Bohn’s nod to the classic daiquiri with El Dorado 15-year-old rum, fresh squeezed apple cider, egg white, and apple bitters. Second place and $1000 went to Danielle Lewis of GT Fish & Oyster for the Sittin’ Pretty, with Alipus San Juan Mezcal, H by Hine VSOP Cognac, and Lustau Dry Amontillado "Los Arcos,” while third place and $500 was taken home by Jeff Dauksch of Cityscape Bar for the Demon’s Howl, with Tequila Ocho Plata, B.G. Reynolds ginger syrup, and grapefruit juice.
While only three winners could be chosen, the competition prompted more than three times the number of submissions from last year’s event, with venues represented including Momotaro, Chicago Athletic Club, GreenRiver, Bar DeVille, and Ada St.