On Tuesday, July 29, about twenty of the Bay Area’s top bartenders will gather at Albany’s Ivy Room (860 San Pablo Ave.) in a quest to prove that while oil and water famously don’t mix, oil and booze sometimes can — and often with delicious results.
In collaboration with Berkeley-based La Tourangelle Artisan Oils, The Ivy Room is hosting what might be the first local event of its kind: a cocktail competition in which the participants must create an original drink that makes use of at least one of La Tourangelle’s specialty oils. The faceoff will take place on Tuesday evening from 4 to 9 p.m., with the winner taking home a bar kit, a full set of La Tourangelle oils, and a cool $500. There is no entry fee.
The event is the brainchild of Ronaldo Colli, The Ivy Room’s head mixologist and a decorated veteran of the competitive cocktail scene, who first started experimenting with using different oils in his cocktails a few years ago when, to his knowledge, no one else was really doing it. In fact, Colli said that even recently, when he started talking to local bartenders about oil-based cocktails, they all looked at him like he was crazy. But, as Colli put it, “If you’re going to call yourself a mixologist, nothing is impossible.”
- The Ivy Room
- The “Five One O”
Colli’s current cocktail menu at The Ivy Room includes a drink called the “Five One O”: a mixture of brandy, sweet vermouth, and sauvignon blanc that gets topped with sesame oil and sesame seeds and is served in a cocktail glass, with some lemon zest on the rim. The oil doesn’t actually get mixed in and ends up just floating on top — just enough of it to add aroma and flavor to the drink. For another cocktail, a pineapple drink that’s served on the rocks, Colli uses coconut oil that freezes on top of the ice, forming chunks of “snow.”
“Oil and ice, they’re not really good friends, but you have to find a way,” Colli said.
For Tuesday’s competition, participants can incorporate the oil of their choice into any style of cocktail — stirred, shaken, foam-based, and so forth. Each cocktail will be limited to five ingredients (including any homemade syrups or foams that participants care to prepare ahead of time), and will be judged on aroma, flavor, technique, presentation, and creativity. The lineup of competitors includes bartenders from such well-regarded local establishments as Bocanova, Cafe Rouge, Duende, Honor Bar, and Revival Bar and Kitchen.