Judging the Bloody Mary Mix Down
The NY Hot Sauce Expo debuted in Brooklyn in 2013, and was so successful it has since expanded to Oregon, California, and now Arizona. This weekend the first annual AZ Hot Sauce Expo took place at Tempe Diablo Stadium and chile heads gathered to celebrate the heat. The two-day event featured fiery pizza, chicken wing, tamale and burrito-eating contests, The Guinness Book of Records Reaper Eating Challenge (and AZ broke the record!) margarita and bloody mary competitions, and hot sauce awards, sampling and shopping.
On Sunday, I joined six fellow judges for the Bloody Mary Mix Down competition: Lauren Topor, a local writer for Thrillist, Trish Renehan, secretary of United States Bartenders' Guild-Phoenix, Vic Clinco, owner of the largest privately-owned hot sauce collection in the world, Travis Nass of CaskWerks Distilling Co., John Hard, founder of CaJohns Fiery Foods, and Tiberius (Sir) McMillen of McAby Publishing and Chile Pepper Magazine. Eleven talented competitors had only 90 seconds each to create a Bloody Mary to wow the judges.
It was a blind judging and we identified the cocktails by numbers without knowing the ingredients except for sponsor Stoli vodka. Each Bloody Mary was scored on presentation, taste, and creativity. Thank you to all the contestants who made our job so difficult! (I've edited to add bartenders' names as I learn them).
After tallying up the scores.....
Arizona cocktail pro Michael Soo of Woodshed - also 2014 World's Best Mai Tai winner - was crowned the champ. His winning Bloody Mary was a yellow and green duo served in a divided glass (in the photo below they had combined).
I asked Michael to describe his cocktail: "One side was a yellow Bloody Mary with Stoli vodka, lemon juice, and yellow bloody mary mix (yellow heirloom tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, Homeboy's Habenero hot sauce, yellow carrot, and ginger). The green Bloody Mary was Stoli vodka, lime juice, and green Bloody Mary mix (green heirloom tomatoes, green bell pepper, cilantro, basil, mint, avocado, celery, cucumber with Homeboys Verde and Ghost hot sauces)."
He received $500 and a trip to New York where he will be competing in the National Bloody Mary Mix Down Championship. Congratulations Michael!
Congratulations to all the gifted competitors. Those that didn't place should be proud - it was a close competition and we were all impressed with such a show of talent.
Hopefully I'll be at the same place, same time, next year. Thank you to the AZ Hot Sauce Expo for the perfect Sunday afternoon exploring the creativity of these cocktail masters and celebrating the Bloody Mary.