101 Best New Cocktails: Rizal by Jo-Jo Valenzuela, Brine, Fairfax, VA, USA

by Gaz Regan · Friday, November 27th, 2015 · 101 Best New Cocktails, 101 Best New Cocktails 2015


Photo credit: M. Carrie Allan

Jo-Jo Valenzuela, Brine, Fairfax, VA, USA

“Since 2008, 50 of the best bartenders in Washington, DC compete for the title DC Craft Bartenders Guild Rickey Champion, to honor the city’s official cocktail. I have submitted an entry each of the past five years, and last year I actually reached the finals but fell flat in the end. I was so bummed, because I gave my everything to that cocktail, and never thought I would be able to make anything better. On top of that, I was also voted to be the Vice President of the guild, meaning I may not be permitted to join.

“Early this year, I became an American citizen, and one thing the judge told me was my loyalty now belongs to America but to never give up my affection to my home country, the Philippines. I vowed the next time I compete, I will be using flavors I grew up with. Preparing for a different competition, I came up with flavors I miss, that grew in my home backyard, guava and kalamansi. It immediately dawned on me that I should make a soda, and ask to join the Rickey competition again which was 2 months away; I totally lost focus on the current competition.

“I called the president and the event organizer of the guild, and told them I have my made the best soda I could ever come up with, and asked them if I could compete this year. At that time the submissions were at an all-time low, so they permitted me to join as long as I do not expect to be one of the judges.

“I came up with my Rickey version, Rizal, named after the national hero of the Philippines. It had gin, lime, and my guavamansi soda, which had guava, kalamansi, Thai chili, lemongrass and water that I carbonated in a soda siphon. I told the judges that the (Thai) basil garnish is unnecessary, since classic Rickeys are not garnished with anything but the lime shell, but I wanted to let them experience what it smelled like in my backyard.

“Out of 48 contestants, in front of my family and the hundreds of people at the competition, after five years of wanting it, I cried as I got crowned the 2015 DC Craft Bartenders Guild Rickey Champion.” Jo-Jo Valenzuela

Rizal Photo credit M. Carrie Allan1 lime, cut in half

45 ml (1.5 oz) gin

Guavamansi Soda*

1 sprig Thai basil, as garnish

Squeeze the juice of one lime half into a highball glass and drop the lime shell into the glass. Add gin and fill halfway with guavamansi soda. Fill glass with ice. Slap the basil sprig and add it and the remaining lime half as garnish.

*Guavamansi Soda: First, make spiced syrup by combining 1600 g (3.5 lb) sugar and 1 L (1 qt) hot water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat and transfer to a 4-quart cambro. Add 66 g (about 2 cups) bruised, minced lemongrass, the grated zest of 2 lemons, and 16 to 20 pieces of dried Thai chili. Cover and let cool to room temperature. Makes about 2 L (2 qt).

Mix 540 ml (18 oz) guava puree, 180 ml (6 oz) kalamansi juice, 420 ml (14 oz) Spiced Syrup, 20 g (4 teaspoons) citric acid, 1 g (.25 teaspoon) champagne yeast, and 2.6 L (90 oz or 11.25 c) filtered water in a gallon container and stir well. Divide among 12-ounce sterilized plastic bottles, cover, and let ferment at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, until the bottle hardens due to the carbonation. Refrigerate for 2 days to stop fermentation, and then it is ready to serve. Alternatively, you can omit the champagne yeast and carbonate with a soda siphon. Makes about 4 L (4 qt).

gaz sez: Luckily for me, Jo-Jo sent me a sample of his soda, so I didn’t have to brew up a batch of my own—the soda is fabulous, and I love the simplicity of this baby. Well done, Jo-Jo!

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