Last week I was fortunate to attend the 9th annual Grand Cochon – the ultimate pork-person’s event – here in Chicago. It’s a culinary competition where 14 Chefs cook 14 heritage pigs in a head-to-tail, winner-takes-all showdown. If there ever was a time and a place to pig-out, it’s here!
The day before the main event, Cochon555 hosted Punch Kings at the Chicago Athletic Association. It’s a pretty spectacular event where 14 of the finest US bartenders present their rift on an American classic. The punch bowl.
Punch is the granddaddy of all cocktails – meant for sharing amongst friends and getting the party started. The historical context of punch dates back to colonial imperialist England and colonial America! The theme for the competition is to concoct a large-format punch bowl, and they are given 30 minutes to prepare 1 punch bowl with Breckenridge Bourbon and Angostura Bitters. The bartenders are then able to add their twist and special ingredients and present them to the judges and guests.
Thanks to The House of Angostura, I was invited to sit on the judge’s panel — meaning that I had to (GOT TO!) consume all 14 punch drinks. Mixologists came from all over the states to compete: NYC, Denver, Austin, Seattle… the list goes on! Each had their own spin on the drink, incorporating their city or homage to punch. Seeing every punch drink crafted entirely different but using the same baseline ingredients was so impressive. Below are some of my favorites that we tasted:
The criteria we looked at while judging the punch drinks on were: presentation, flavor, and creativity. It was such a fun experience getting to participate as a judge for the competition. Congratulations to James Wampler of Proof and Provision out of Atlanta, GA for winning first place and serving up the best punch! His rendition was called ‘High Tea,’ and I had to share the recipe right here:
‘High Tea’ by James Wampler, Proof and Provision:
- 1 Bottle Breckenridge Bourbon
- 9.5oz Fresh Lemon Juice
- 12.5 Chai-Lemon Oleo Saccharum
- 26 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1c Fiji Water
Mix all ingredients in a punch bowl and serve with a large ice cube and lemon peel. Simple as that!
I didn’t really realize the importance of bitters in a cocktail until this event, and somebody much more knowledgeable than I explained to me that bitters, “is the salt of a cocktail.” Which I can relate to. I salt everything, heavily. Angostura aromatic bitters remain the go-to bitters for classic and contemporary cocktails as it builds layers of flavors and adds balance and complexity to the drink. You can also use bitters to your food to give it a boost of flavor, and Angostura has been called a ‘magic ingredient’ by chefs to transform everyday recipes into complex dishes. Some of the eats at Sunday’s Grand Cochon featured Angostura!
The following Sunday was the next big day – the 9th annual Grand Cochon! The event focuses on heritage pigs, which come from bloodlines hundreds of years back and raised on multi-use open-pasture farms. Because of their history, they have a rich taste, distinct marbling, and creamy fat – compared to commodity pigs. So many tasty bites from culinary geniuses! I think I witnessed every inch of pigs get creatively utilized – from shoulder to skin.. and even the tongue! Shop the look here:
This post was sponsored by House of Angostura, but all opinions are our my own.