Bombay searches for ‘Most Imaginative’ mixologist

Jul. 30, 2013 | 0 Comments
Raj Nagra, Bombay Sapphire global brand ambassador, leads a seminar about gin at the Modern Honolulu on Monday, July 29. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Raj Nagra, Bombay Sapphire global brand ambassador, leads a seminar about gin at the Modern Honolulu on Monday, July 29. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

A Hawaii-based bartender will take the next step towards national recognition — and possibly even international fame — today, July 30, when the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG), Bombay Sapphire Gin and GQ magazine present the seventh annual “Most Imaginative Bartender” competition at Pearl Ultralounge. Admission is free.

Raj Nagra, Bombay Sapphire global brand ambassador. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Raj Nagra, Bombay Sapphire global brand ambassador. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Ten Hawaii bartenders — three representing the USBG, the rest from local bars and nightclubs — will compete for the right to represent Hawaii at the USBG “Bartender Summit” in Las Vegas in September. The winner there will represent the United States in the third annual “Most Imaginative Bartender” global finals in 2014.

To participate, competing bartenders must be legal U.S. residents, at least 25 years old, have prior bartending experience and participated in a USBG “cocktail lab,” or educational seminar.

The required “lab” time was provided on Monday, July 29, when contestants were joined by several other local mixologists and Raj Nagra, Bombay Sapphire global brand ambassador, at the Modern Honolulu in Waikiki. While the wind blew and pre-Tropical Storm Flossie rain fell outside, Nagra traced the history of gin and its core ingredient (juniper berries) back to Biblical times and then up through the invention of modern gin in 17th century Holland and its subsequent popularity in England. He described the different processes used to make various types of gin and explained how taste and smell function together in shaping the sensory experience of a cocktail.

The introduction to gin and gin drinks continued with a careful comparison of how different types of gin and gin ingredients taste and smell. Nagra then presided over a friendly game of blind-tasting various brand-name gins and guessing the correct brands.

It was a fascinating in-depth look at world of gin and gin-based cocktails.

The bartenders scheduled to compete today at Pearl include:

» Erik Harris (Tiki’s Grill & Bar)
» Jerah Makami (Pint & Jigger)
» Mark Mausen (Pearl Ultralounge)
» Brent Nakano (USBG)
» Dave Newman (USBG)
» Justin Park (Manifest)
» Tim Rita (Manifest)
» Jay Rod (Bills Sydney)
» Roxanne Siebert (Safehouse)
» Jayml Stamos (USBG)

Raj Nagra, Bombay Sapphire global brand ambassador, leads a seminar about gin at the Modern Honolulu on Monday, July 29. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Raj Nagra, Bombay Sapphire global brand ambassador, leads a seminar about gin at the Modern Honolulu on Monday, July 29. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

The bartenders will start mixing it up with their eyes on the prize this afternoon at 5 p.m. They are free to create any style of cocktail in one of five categories: Pre-dinner, After-Dinner, Classic Cocktail, Seasonal Cocktail and Avant-Garde; cocktails will be judged on their appearance, aroma, imagination, taste and the overall impression of the drink. Cocktails must be finished and served ready-to-drink in seven minutes or less.

Nagra will be joined by Chris Kajioka of Vintage Cave, Chris Teves of the Hawaii Beverage Guide and Honolulu magazine writer Martha Cheng in judging the cocktails and selecting a winner. Judges will watch how the contestants handle the glasses and bar tools while preparing the cocktail, their neatness in mixing the ingredients and their general efficiency. Points will also earned or lost for aesthetic issues (e.g. the presentation of the bottles — labels should be facing the audience).
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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