The Paloma gets Frenchified by Finn Sugrue.
Finn Sugrue is the venue manager at Nectar in Geelong, and wanted to enter this year’s Patrón Perfectionists cocktail competition to see how far he had grown since entering it last year.
With his top 10 placement, I guess it’s fair to say he’s done well.
Below, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, Finn talks to us about why he chose La Ville Rose — the pink city — as the inspiration for his drink, what bartending is all about for him, and how he worked the flavours of Toulouse into his Paloma riff.
Sam Bygrave: Okay, tell us where you work?
Finn Sugrue: I’m the venue manager at Nectar Kitchen and Bar in Geelong.
How long have you been bartending for?
I’ve been bartending for about four years now. Yeah, I actually started at this place, Recess, [and their] next one I’m working in now is the second venue, which we only opened just over a month ago. So all new, fresh and everything. It’s going really well.
So you’ve had a busy time the last few weeks.
It’s been a really busy time to be honest. It’s been a hectic couple of months to be fair. Yeah. We’re just hitting our stride with service and, you know, getting super busy, which is really awesome.
Well tell us about your drink. What’s the name of your cocktail that got through the top 10 and what was the big idea behind it?
I called it the Repertoire. The drink itself is based on the city of Toulouse in the south of France. The whole idea about it was that once I read the brief [for the competition] it was about a Paloma, you know, an iconic pink cocktail. I thought about this city because of their pink brick buildings.
I found this connection being the fields in Jalisco, where the agave is grown, which is very rich with iron oxide.
That’s the common denominator because the the bricks in Toulouse are pink because of the presence of iron oxide in them as well.
And then it just started, going on from there using French classic cooking techniques. I wanted to hone in on those styles of creating flavours to make them super punchy, robust. And I ended up making a cordial with a gastrique with Australian sandalwood, tarragon, some honey, some champagne vinegar. And yeah, it turned out all right. Which is good.
Turned out alright, yeah, I think it did. Why did you want to enter Patrón Perfectionist?
This was a comp that I entered, uh, last year. It was actually the comp that I entered before I went overseas. And this was the time that I actually went to Toulouse. I entered this year because I wanted to kind of see where my growth was at, you know, to see if I could potentially get to that next stage.
So you’ve been to Toulouse, have you? What is it about Toulouse that you like? And why did you mind go straight away to there?
It was this city that I didn’t know heaps about. The only thing I knew about it was my sister had been there on exchange. And, when I was a kid, we hosted a couple of exchange students from Toulouse as well. They were awesome.
We were in the south of France, I said to my friend that I was traveling with, we’ll go by Toulouse. I’ve heard great things about it. My sister loved it.
It was the people and there’s still friends that, you know, I still message that are in Toulouse. We were traveling through France and, you know, UK and I was bringing my friend James along to all these bars that were in the top 50. I wanted to see as many great places as possible.
But particularly that bar, it was just awesome that we went to. It was the first night that we were there and like the time after discovering all the pink bricks. And it was just cool. The bartenders just had this infectious attitude that, you know, like when you want to start being a bartender, those are the kind of people that you think you’re gonna be like. And I just remember like this one little thing about it as well. Four bartenders were were pouring beers, mixing mojitos, that kind of thing. And every couple of minutes, they just kept clapping. And we were just sitting and were drinking and we were like, what the hell are they doing? And we looked over at one point and the light went off above them and they all went [clap]. And it was a clapper light that was above them. And I just thought like, that is one of the funniest, like most bizarre things ever.
But it was this immediate icebreaker. It’s about how the people feel kind of thing. Like that’s what bartending is at its core.
- 50ml Patrón Reposado
- 45ml gastrique cordial
- 75ml soda water
Garnish with a violet flower jube.
For the gastrique cordial:
20g Aussie Sandalwood is covered with 20g of castor sugar and placed in the oven at 180 degrees to caramelise the sugars (10 minutes).
Then place caramelised sugar/sandalwood in a saucepan at medium heat with 30g of Manuka honey and 20g of champagne vinegar.
Once combined let the gastrique reduce for another 10 minutes over low/medium heat.
Once gastrique is ready, put it into a vacuum bag (including the sandalwood) with:
10g ruby red grapefruit peel
150g ruby red grapefruit juice
50g lime juice
5g lime peel
2g ascarobic acid
3g 20% saline solution
10g fresh tarragon leaves
Seal vac bag and sou vide gastrique cordial for 2 hours at 60 degrees.
Finally, finely strain, bottle and refrigerate.
For the violet flower jube:
100g ruby red grapefruit flesh
30g lime juice
80g castor sugar
1g 20% saline solution
Once blended, fine strain and place in a saucepan over the stove at low heat.
Take 4 gelatin sheets and soak in an ice bath for 5/7 minutes
Once gelatin sheets are soaked, squeeze the excess water off the gelatin sheets and place in the saucepan to dissolve into the mixture.
Once dissolved, pour gelatin liquid into the flower moulds and let set in a refrigerator over night
Once gelatin has set, take out of the moulds and coat the jube in koji powder for more rich/umami flavour.
Place violet flower jube on top of the spear ice followed with a pinch of salt and grated grapefruit zest.
I chose to use a violet flower jube as Toulouse is also known as the city of violets.