Lindsay Heffron of Liberty Station is packing her bags and heading to Las Vegas. It’s not all poolside and casinos, though. Sunday, Heffron will represent Houston against 51 other top mixologists from across the U.S. in Bombay Sapphire gin’s search for the "Most Inspired Bartender."
Heffron earned her spot in the national competition by winning Bombay Sapphire's local contest held last month at Nouveau Antique Art Bar. The United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) invited 20 of Houston’s most promising bartenders to create cocktails incorporating the brand-name gin.
While the finished beverage is similar to a Martinez Cocktail, Heffron's spice-inspired drink stands apart with its savory mix of saffron, gin, sweet vermouth, and apricot flavors. You won't find any juices or syrups here. This beverage is made with all alcohol.
After a series of timed sessions and blind tastings, Heffron passed with flying colors as her innovative libation “Salaam Bombay” was deemed the evening’s “Most Inspired” by a panel of judges that included chef Bryan Caswell and Bombay Sapphire Ambassador Gary Hayward.
Heffron built her recipe around saffron tincture, a concentrated alcoholic extract used to draw flavor from the spice. While the finished beverage is similar to a Martinez Cocktail, Heffron's spice-inspired drink stands apart with its savory mix of saffron, gin, sweet vermouth, and apricot flavors. Heffron notes that she took care to “enhance rather than mask the Bombay Sapphire by keeping the recipe boozy.” You won't find any juices or syrups here. This beverage is made with all alcohol.
From Space City to Sin City, the stakes are high at the national challenge in Las Vegas. On the line is the title of USBG Most Inspired Bartender and a profile spot in GQ Magazine's December 2012 issue.
“I’ve been working on my flavor profiles and honing in on my palate to better understand what goes together,” Heffron says. "Being creative is what it’s all about, along with understanding how to layer and mix."
The contest's first elimination, at which Heffrom will present the Salaam Bombay again, will narrow the field to 10 bartenders, then the 10 winning bartenders will be challenged to come up with an inventive cocktail using a secret ingredient and an assigned theme. Last year the secret ingredient was Bombay Sapphire East and competitors were asked to use their hometown as inspiration. The Las Vegas event lasts through Wednesday.
Have gin, will travel. The winner of the USBG Most Inspired Bartender will earn a spot at Bombay Sapphire Gin's second-annual global finals in Morocco. Making it to the grand finale in Africa and vying for international recognition against nine other of the world’s preeminent mixologists will have proven no small feat, considering this whole process began with entries from as many as 1,500 bartenders.
“I feel extremely honored to have the opportunity to be nationally recognized in my field,” says Heffron. “The notion that the national recognition could turn into global recognition is simply surreal.”
Below is the recipe for Heffron’s winning drink. Cheers!
1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire
.75 oz. Pierre Ferrand Pineau des Charentes cognac
.5 oz Punt E Mes Italian vermouth
.5 oz apricot liqueur
10 drops saffron tincture*
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass, serve up in a cocktail glass or coupe and garnish with a candied apricot piece.
*To make the saffron tincture you’ll need:
1 spice jar Spanish saffron (available at Whole Foods)
Mix a small 3:1 solution of Bombay Sapphire to water and add entire contents of spice jar. Let it sit for a few days to draw flavor from the saffron. It'll last for roughly one month.