The ninth annual Westchester Magazine Wine & Food Fest (June 4–9) featured the sophomore outing of the Taste & Style Bartender Shakeoff competition, where Emilio Ugarte, RiverMarket Bar & Kitchen’s beverage director, successfully defended his reign as champion with his Mediterranean Breeze cocktail.
Ugarte was challenged by four plucky bartenders, from tredici NORTH (Purchase), NoMa Social (New Rochelle), Saints & Scholars (Yonkers), and Iron Vine (Peekskill). Each was tasked with creating a cocktail using Gin Mare — a gin distilled in a Spanish 13th-century chapel, with arbequina olives and Mediterranean botanicals, like basil, rosemary, and thyme. Ugarte describes Gin Mare as “flexible to play around with,” using two full bottles of it before perfecting his Mediterranean Breeze drink with Fragoli Strawberry Liqueur, Intense Ginger Liqueur, spiced quince simple syrup, fresh lime juice, sage, and an orange-peel garnish.
Ugarte’s idea to use notes of quince came to him after coincidentally stumbling upon the aroma of the fragrant, yellowish fruit in the supermarket. Overcoming his nerves, Ugarte focused on how Gin Mare is made, where it is made, what grows around the area, and his personal knowledge of Spain to secure his place again as Westchester’s finest bartender — at least for one more year.