I'd like to introduce you to my newest cocktail, Mahona Lisa! I have been stewing on the idea of providing an experience for my guests that they are able to control, every sip of the way, for a year now. When I had my first taste of Mahon at a profile tasting in Dallas, Tx a couple months ago, I was overwhelmed with the unique flavors that washed over my palate and knew this was the perfect spirit to showcase with my pending concept.
The "paint your palate" method came to me on the drive back home to Amarillo. Mahon is beautiful enough for non-gin-drinkers to enjoy simply chilled in a beautiful vessel, which was perfect for the emphasis on "simplicity" in the contest. As for the paint pallete (I love play on words), I knew it needed to contain 5 flavors or less, again for simplicity. My first thought was to highlight taste notes within the gin by using ingredients such as lemongrass or juniper berries...too easy, and the gin doesn't need highlighting. Next, I thought of how I explain to guests as well as up-and-coming bartenders about my philosophy for building new cocktails, whether it's for a new menu or on the fly. I always preach "balance". "Find balance between three or more of the five basic tastes, six if you add spicy." The concept behind this cocktail is that anyone, anywhere in the world can pull flavors that they have available in their kitchen or bar and recreate this experience. It's an experiment that cannot be failed. You don't even NEED the cute paint brush. I had my chefs and bar staff try Mahona Lisa after filming it. We all sat around playing with random ingredients, making each other try our concoctions like giggling children. We've found that it's a wonderful social activity as well as teaching technique. There are some extremely unexpected flavor combinations that work brilliantly together and take the gin and our creativity to a whole new level.
Flair: Amarillo is known for its West Texas cowboys. I pulled the gin from my holster and gave it a good swirl, like the revolvers in the old western movies.
Martini: Our standard martini pour is 3oz. I chose to stir the Mahon, rather than shake, for a silky mouth feel that compliments its delicate flavors. I only stirred it long enough to chill it and open it up, not water it down and dilute its perfection.
Building my pallete:
All ingredients were found already in house, either the kitchen or the bar.
With the Spanish Mediterranean in mind, I opted for spicy over bitter. For the video, I used cayenne pepper. It's tropical and warm, without killing your palate for the rest of the experience. My salty selection was simply apple wood smoked sea salt. I had the island air in mind with a little added smoke from the wood fired distillery. This gave a bit more complexity. Sour could easily work with lemon or lime, but I chose passion fruit puree. I enjoy its tropical tang, and it plays well with the cayenne pepper. Sweet was honey syrup that we use every day at the bar. Mellow, warm, rich but simple flavor that compliments many of the other ingredients. Finally, I added savory/umami. This was tricky. I started with a mesquite bar-b-que rub, which worked wonderfully! However, it was a little too close to the smoked salt. I ended up with white truffle oil. I wanted to add a bit of European sophistication to the cocktail. You will be shocked at how the gin reacts with this. I had two non-gin-drinkers and anti-truffle-eaters try this and love it!
Because some of these flavors are quite potent, I added candied ginger to the palette for a palate cleanser and water in the center to rinse off the paint brush between sips.
I recommend trying each of the ingredients individually, with a sip of gin, before blending them. From there, play away!