And the winner is ... everyone!
I had the privilege of being a guest judge at the inaugural Battle of the Botanicals, held in June at the Powerhouse venue on the grounds of Amherst College. It’s a fundraiser that benefits educational programs at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst.
The event was more love-in than competition, with six area restaurants participating.
The chef and bartender from each establishment had to incorporate a shared local Valley botanical — rosemary, blueberries, bee pollen, honey, peas, beets — into the food item and cocktail they prepared.
After the favorites were voted on by the audience, the three top bartenders were put to another challenge: make a cocktail using a surprise ingredient, which turned out to be chocolate mint.
Lincoln Allen, bartender at the Alvah Stone, won the battle, and I decided on the spot that I’d soon be making a trip to 440 Greenfield Road in Montague to see what else he has up his bartender’s sleeve.
On that day, Allen was behind the bar, and we chatted about the “Battle of the Botanical” as I perused the menu. I decided on a cocktail called The Machine — made with two spicy infused tequilas, green chartreuse, lemon juice and grapefruit bitters — a tasty combination of spicy heat and refreshing citrus.
For food, I had the quiche and cranberry bean salad, which paired perfectly with my cocktail.
Before I took my leave, I sampled a barrel-aged banana liqueur and apple brandy. OMG. Not sure if Lincoln’s incorporating that into a future cocktail, but it — like Allen — is a winner.
Tim Driscoll is a bartender, a former bar owner and a perpetual student of mixology.
How to make The Machine
1 ounce El Espolon Reposado Tequila, infused with hot red peppers
1 ounce Zapopan Silver Tequila, infused with jalapeno peppers
¾ ounce green chartreuse
¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
½ ounce agave syrup
Dash of Bittermens hopped grapefruit bitters
Shake ingredients with ice and pour into a chilled coupe glass
Garnish with a lemon twist