An Interview With Porto Cocktail Competition Winner Colin Bolini

It wouldn’t be the first mention of this topic on our blog, but it bears repeating. Port tends to be an overlooked or misunderstood ingredient when it comes to developing cocktails. But when you find a drink recipe (or, better yet, develop one yourself!) that calls for port, the result is a drink with a great depth of flavor that tastes simply – well – delicious.

Presented by Tales of the Cocktail and Saveur Magazine, Sandeman hosted a contest back in the spring that challenged bartenders to develop unique recipes using the brand’s Founders Reserve Porto for a chance to win a trip to Tales of the Cocktail, taking place in New Orleans later this month. Judges for the 2012 Porto Cocktail Competition included:

  • David Wondrich – Cocktail Historian
  • Jonathan Pogash – Beverage Consultant
  • Helen Rosner – Saveur Spirits Editor

Together, the group of esteemed industry professionals declared Colin Bolini, of The Rail in Bloomington, IN, the winner for his original recipe, “Sporting Chance”. I had the chance to connect with Colin online and ask him a few questions about bartending, his unique Sandeman recipe and discover just exactly what he’s looking forward to on his complimentary trip to Tales:

StephanieJerzy: How long have you been bartending and what got you most interested in this line of work?
ColinBolini: I’m a 10 year restaurant veteran who has worked every position from busyboy to GM at a variety of establishments. I was drawn to bartending because I’ve always romanticized the position and felt that its roots in being a well respected profession could be re-conjured, and I love the spontaneous nature of the craft.

SJ: How do you prep for a bar shift? Have any rituals or best practices to get “in the zone”?

Colin Bolini in his element at The Rail

CB: When I’m setting up the bar, I like to get there early, turn up the music (something with tempo!) and move quickly to ensure I can enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee prior to open. For whatever reason, I’ve been listening to a lot of the Rolling Stones album “Sticky Fingers” at set up. Another good way to get in the zone is to fool around and make an off-the-wall cocktail right at open and share it with whomever dares, it stimulates the mind!

SJ: What was the inspiration for your winning Sandeman recipe? How did those flavors come together?
CB: I have enjoyed utilizing Sandeman port in cocktails as a way to work in subtle sweetness and depth of flavor. My cocktail, “Sporting Chance,” was inspired by the depth of flavor inherent in the port, and also the brutally hot weather I knew to expect at the end of July in New Orleans! By bolstering the port with a little dark rum and cognac, lightening with muddled mint, and then bringing up the complexity with two kinds of bitters, I felt like the perfect balance was struck without disguising the port base. Served as a julep because of my fascination with the presentation style, I hope that “Sporting Chance” proves that port need not be reserved for cold winter nights only.

SJ: You’ll be at Tales of the Cocktail in July with Sandeman — Have you been before? What are you most looking forward to in New Orleans?
CB: I am attending my first TOTC, and I’m very excited! Apart from the networking opportunities and amazing New Orleans cuisine, I am most excited to learn from the industry’s best and brightest and advance my skills and knowledge surrounding my craft.

SJ: What other spirits do you most frequently like to use behind the bar?
CB: When I’m not mixing up new Sandeman cocktails, you can most often find me with a bottle of rye whiskey or mezcal, tinkering away!

You’ll be able to catch Colin mixing up his Sporting Chance recipe at a collection of Sandeman-sponsored events at this upcoming Tales of the Cocktail, including the Sandeman “Lost Art of Port” Spirited Dinner at Arnaud’s and  the Cocktail Apprentice Lunch at Tales of the Cocktail.

If you won’t be able to join us in New Orleans (or visit Colin behind the bar at The Rail), here’s the recipe so you can mix up a Sporting Chance for yourself:

Sporting Chance

  • 1 oz Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto
  • 3/4 oz El Dorado 12 Year Old Demerara Rum
  • 1/2 oz Hardy VS Cognac
  • 1/4 oz Rich Demerara Syrup (2:1)
  • 2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Mint leaves

Lightly muddle five or six mint leaves with demerara syrup in the bottom of a julep cup. Add the port, rum, cognac, syrup and bitters. Stir briefly to combine. Fill julep cup with crushed ice. Stir to chill until cup frosts. Form mound of crushed ice on top; pour cocktail.

Thanks Colin for answering our questions and we all look forward to seeing you in New Orleans in just a few short weeks!

Cheers!
SJ

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Filed under bars, events, Recipes

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