Aspen bartender Anthony Bohlinger finds the right ingredients
August 19, 2013
The making of ‘Delilah’
As part of this writing assignment, I was pretty much obligated to try a “Delilah in Red” drink. I know, it’s a tough job sometimes, but I’m a team player and if having a drink makes for a better understanding of my subject, so be it.
Watching the care and keen eye for detail by bartender Anthony Bohlinger makes the drink experience that much better. He lightly crushed the cucumber, but only a couple presses to release the flavor oils and scents. He then added fresh watermelon juice and a lavender syrup Bohlinger created. Next came some fresh lemon juice and Bombay gin , followed by a healthy shake. Finally, he added some egg whites to act as an emulsifier and gave the drink another healthy shake.
Knowing someone took that much care to prepare a drink adds a special appreciation that goes beyond flavor.
Bohlinger then strained out a red-tinted drink that had a wonderful mouth-feel. The egg whites gave the liquid a perfect texture — slightly thickened but not sticky.
Even before the drink hit my lips, the smell sensation was amazing. The combination of lemon, watermelon, cucumber and lavender made for a flowery, sweet aroma. The drink went down easy with a unique flavor that was both refreshing and zesty. The gin was present as well, but not overpowering by any means. It did, however, make me all warm and fuzzy before I finished the cocktail. Just the way I like to feel when I’m having an adult beverage.
It didn't take Anthony Bohlinger long to find success as a bartender in Aspen.
Bohlinger, 31, is the new executive beverage director at the Chefs Club, located inside the St. Regis Aspen Resort. On Aug. 12, he entered the regional contest for "The Most Imaginative Bartender In America," a competition sponsored by Bombay Sapphire Gin and GQ Magazine.
Despite describing himself as "extremely competitive," it was the first drink contest Bohlinger had ever entered. It was also the first competition he's won.
"I dominated," he said, laughing. "Actually, I'm more like a Cinderella story. I did it for the Chefs Club. I figured if I won, it would create some new excitement for our bar and restaurant. One of my goals is to build a strong, local clientele. I want to have solid relationships with the people that live here in Aspen."
By winning the regional contest, Bohlinger will go to Las Vegas in September to compete for the national title.
"It'll be cool to hang out with some of the top bartenders in the industry," he said. "It'll be great to see what they're doing."
The regional competition was held at the Sky Hotel in Aspen. Bohlinger created a drink he named "Delilah in Red," which is his rendition of a cocktail called either "The White Lady," "The Chelsea Sidecar" or "Delilah". The Delilah is considered to be a classic cocktail with gin, Cointreau (a brand of triple sec) and lemon juice, put together much like a martini.
"We're in the midst of a cocktail renaissance," Bohlinger said. "There are many new speakeasy-type bars featuring lots of fresh ingredients. That inspired me to pay homage to a classic cocktail like the Delilah."
Bohlinger kept the lemon juice and gin aspects of the Delilah, but replaced the Cointreau with a series of fresh ingredients. He combined English cucumber, watermelon juice, lavender syrup and egg whites that ends up with a light, red color.
The cocktail has a delicate, floral fragrance. The pairing of the cucumber and watermelon gives the beverage a sweet flavor, followed by a hint of lemon tartness.
"The drink he made is very unique," said Chef Club executive sous chef Chris Szyjka. "It's surprising the first time you taste it. I definitely will be having more of them."
Bohlinger was working in Miami when he was invited to be a guest bartender at the Chefs Club as part of the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen in June. A few days after he returned to Miami, he received an offer from the Chefs Club to become its executive beverage director.
Bohlinger said he spends 60 percent of his time working at the bar and 40 percent working with Chefs Club's kitchen staff, learning from them the proper food and cocktail pairings.
He also started the "Aspen Cocktail Club" that meets at 6 p.m. every Thursday. The cocktail club will feature a different spirit every week with three different bartenders offering two featured drinks at $8 each. The club starts at the Chefs Club, then goes to Justice Snows and Jimmy's to sample the weekly featured spirit.
"People can follow what we're doing on Facebook," Bohlinger said. "The Aspen Cocktail Club will be a great way to socialize and sample some great, unique drinks."