How to mix an award-winning cocktail (sort of)
Todd Thrasher, the mixologist in charge of the cocktail menus at the PX, Restaurant Eve and the Majestic, is the reigning champion of the Cocktail World Cup, a competition sponsored by New Zealand's 42 Below vodka. Last spring, Thrasher and two partners from the U.S. beat out teams of bartenders from around the globe at a contest in New Zealand.
As this year's contest is just getting underway -- the next qualifying round is at Lima tonight -- it seemed only natural to ask Thrasher how to create a cocktail that will wow a panel of judges when the only rule is that the recipe must include the sponsor's drink.
Too bad he doesn't have any idea.
"I've entered three competitions in my life," Thrasher says. And each time, "it was something I already had [on a menu]. I didn't make a drink just for the contest. PX, Eve and the Majestic are the most important things. I make cocktails so people can come in and have more than one."
His winning I Have Too Much Thyme on My Hands Right Now at This Point in My Life, a smooth-but-tart blend of vodka, the artichoke-based Italian aperitif Cynar and house-made thyme-and lemon syrup and apple bitters, was already a staple on the menu at the speakeasy-like PX in Alexandria when the inaugural Cocktail World Cup came around, though it featured a Virginia-based vodka called Cirrus.
"The whole reason I entered was because Maria [Chicas, Thrasher's wife and the general manager of the Majestic] said, 'We've never been to New Zealand. You should enter one of your cocktails.'"
With supplies of Cirrus drying up, Thrasher says, it was easy for him to modify the recipe to include 42 Below. He breezed through the competition in Washington before taking the top prize in the national championships in New York City and winning an all-expenses paid trip to New Zealand as part of "Team USA," alongside Sean Hoard of New York's PDT and Mark Stoddard of Bitter Bar in Boulder, Colo.
"Going to New York and beating everyone was a big deal, but going to New Zealand -- the trip they gave us was absurd," Thrasher says, with activities ranging from cocktail parties to bungee jumping to helicopter rides through the mountains. "Hanging out with people who do the same thing that I do from all over the world? That was amazing."
Thrasher won't be at tonight's contest -- where, I should note, I'm one of the judges -- because he became a father last night (talk about a big win!), but PX's Clinton Terry is hoping to carry on the bar's winning tradition.