September 13th, 2013
The Aqua Lotus Honolulu's Park Restaurant scored quite a coup this week with their introduction of Bootlegger 21 New York Vodka in Hawaii on Thursday, Sept. 12.
Produced by a three-person, family-run distillery in Roscoe, New York, the new brand is so limited, co-founder Brian Facquet hand-carried a few extra cases of vodka — which he helped bottle himself — across the country to make sure enough product was on hand for the launch party.
To help get guests excited, Park management decided to host a signature cocktail competition with a public vote that will decide which drink — or drinks — make it on the restaurant's permanent menu.
According to Lotus Honolulu general manager Joshua Gray, if the reaction is strong enough for more than one of the five cocktails to remain, they'll keep as many of them around as necessary.
The event also showcased the talents of New York-based mixologist Ryan Kahl, who grew up in Kailua and attended St. Anthony School. After getting his college degree at Syracuse University, he decided to stay on the east coast and get into the bar business with stints at New York's Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel, the Four Seasons NYC, Tomoka NYC and Take Me Out Tours.
These days, Kahl comes back to Hawaii for the annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, but this year he flew back to help Park develop their lineup of potential signature cocktails. He said he tried to focus on local ingredients and influences while working on the recipes, which he hoped would help better connect Park guests with Hawaii's unique sense of place while also enjoying a tasty, well-balanced drink.
The five cocktails that made it to the launch party are all based on Bootlegger vodka, but still offer quite a bit of variety when it comes to the character of each drink. Kahl also utilized ingredients like white wine, sake and homemade pineapple habanero juice to complement lots of fresh fruit used in the recipes.
Here's a look at what was poured for guests at Park on Thursday night:
Made with Bootlegger 21 Vodka, Elderflower Liqueur, Peach Liqueur, Orjeat Syrup and White Wine
Made with Bootlegger 21 Vodka, Lemon and Blackberries
The Flaming Lotus
Made with Bootlegger 21 Vodka, Sake, Fresh Lime, Bacardi 151 and Fresh Apple
The International Market
Made with Bootlegger 21 Vodka, Local Berries, Fresh Lime and Fresh Pineapple
Lotus Ono Mojito
Made with Bootlegger 21 Vodka, Homemade Pineapple Habanero Juice, Coconut Milk, Fresh Lime
THOSE WHO can't make it down to the Lotus Honolulu will have one other opportunity to meet Kahl and learn how to improve your own bartending techniques. On Saturday, Sept. 14, he'll be at Cookspace Hawaii, 1050 Ala Moana Blvd., to host "Shake, Rattle and Roll" from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Along with sharing proper techniques for mixing drinks that utilize fresh fruits, herbs and spices, Kahl will demonstrate how to make a deconstructed Mai Tai for a "modern take on this classic cocktail," according to the Cookspace website. Cost is $57.49; click here to register online, or call 808-695-2205 or email email@example.com for more information.
Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter and Google+.