This summer, Camus hosted finalists for their first-ever New York/New Jersey Shanghai Shake competition at Hudson & Co. Bar and Grill in Jersey City. Though the contest has been active for some years in Shanghai, it was a first for New Jersey. With a grand prize featuring an all-expenses paid trip to compete with international finalists in China, four New Jersey bartenders squared-off in a battle of mixology. Using Camus Cognac as a base, Donny Nelson (Pharmacie Bar & Kitchen in Montclair), Alexander Delgra (Cowan’s Public in Nutley), Albert Martinez (Pier 115 in Edgewater), and Eric Sobalvarro (The Barrow House in Clifton) each prepared two cocktails for the competition. The first, a specialty cocktail created in the weeks leading up to the event and the second, a Chopped-style on-the-fly creation using mystery ingredients only made known after the day’s first round had concluded.
VUE Magazine co-founder Brian Kovener was chosen as one of four judges for the Shanghai Shake’s NJ finalists, noting that Delgra and Nelson’s initial cocktails were the most impressive. Nelson’s dubbed his cocktail: Pomme Blanc. The drink used Camus Very Special, green chartreuse, house-made apple butter,lemon juice, walnut bitters, egg white, citrus zest, grated cinnamon, garnished with a cinnamon stick. “When I first was trying to make a cognac cocktail, I wanted to go for a grown-up apple martini mixed with a sidecar. When I heard we were using Camus, I knew we didn’t have that apple thing going on so I substituted that with apple butter to bring the warm, sweet notes out of the cognac,” Nelson said.
Delgra’s “My Cherie Amour” also used Camus Very Special and featured St. George Coffee, Averna, and Mole Bitters. “When I think cognac, I think ‘after dinner or after dessert.’ So what I’ve created is a sort of nightcap-style coffee drink–which features Mole Bitters and my absolute favorite coffee liqueur, St. George California,” Delgra said, while recreating the cocktail for Kovener and the other judges.
Though Nelson’s Pomme Blanc landed him in the elad of the first round (and first pick at the mystery ingredients for round two), Delgra ultimately came out on top as told by the event’s judges. Delgra joins others in Shanghai for the final rounds of the competition.