Roxanne and I recently met with Yuri Kato, publisher of Cocktail Times, who was in town promoting the 2008 Marie Brizard Cocktail Challenge. The idea of the competition is pretty simple: The 20 best bartenders (as defined by Marie Brizard, who hand-selected the competitors) from the East and West coasts were tasked with creating two cocktails relying on the line of Marie Brizard liqueurs as the main ingredients. The winners from each coast will later fly out to France to compete internationally.

There is a twist in this year’s competition though—for the first time ever, Marie Brizard is opening up voting to the public, so anyone with access to the Interwebs can vote for his or her favorite bartender online. Though the crowd’s favorite is not guaranteed a spot in France (that’s decided at a face-off judged by some industry experts), that person does get the Hospitality Award and a fancy home bartending kit. Voting is going on now and should last a few more weeks.

Since we met up with Yuri at Elixir, we were able to try the cocktails being entered by San Francisco bartenders Jackie Patterson, formerly of Orson, and H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir. One of our favorites that night was from Ehrmann, who put together a spicy and smoky drink that would work well at a fall or winter get-together:

Smoked Anise

1/2 ounce Marie Brizard Anisette
2 ounces Sobieski vodka
1/8 ounce Laphroaig 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

In a mixing glass, combine all ingredients and fill with ice. Stir well for 15 seconds and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a floating star anise.

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