Being a great bartender is the sort of thing your parents can lose track of. They know you work in a nice restaurant—one like Tavola, for instance. They glean from your calls home that the hours are long and the work is hard. But greatness? At making a gin and tonic? That’s tough for Mom and Dad to get their heads around.
But then you make it to the semifinals of the most prestigious cocktail competition in the world, and you’re among the top 50 mixologists in the country, and the light bulb switches on. “We looked it up last night,” Mom gushes on the phone. “This is a really big deal!”
A bigger deal: Edwards advanced to the finals. In early June, she went up against just 15 other great drink-slingers at the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) World Class contest, in Lexington, Kentucky.
The top prize went to a woman from Chicago. “I didn’t win overall,” Edwards says. “But considering there was only a one-in-15 chance, this wasn’t exactly a surprise. The competition was fierce!”
Edwards did finish among the top four in the speed competition, and—big picture—cemented her position among the nation’s elite bartenders. She’ll make a drink for you right there at the bar in Belmont. “I’m just happy to put Charlottesville a little bit more on the map in the craft-cocktail world,” she says. And also to make her parents proud, no doubt.
We asked Ewards to create a recipe for you, the readers of Knife & Fork. Here’s to you, and to summer, and to one great bartender.—Joe Bargmann
Most beautiful words: a cocktail for the summer
1 1/2 oz. basil and cucumber infused Tanqueray 10 gin
3/4 oz. Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
2 oz. watermelon juice
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz. 1:1 simple syrup
1 oz. prosecco
Basil and cucumber infused Tanqueray 10
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1 750ml bottle Tanqueray 10
Combine ingredients in a tightly sealed container, such as a large jar with a screw-on lid, and let sit overnight at room temperature. Save gin bottle.
Fine-strain mixture to remove solids. Discard solids and use a funnel to return the liquid to the original bottle.
Blend 4 cups of chopped watermelon on high until liquified. Strain through cheesecloth. Pour liquid into sealed container and refrigerate.
Combine infused gin, Domaine de Canton, watermelon juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a metal shaker. Add ice cubes and shake thoroughly. Strain into a coupe glass, top with chilled prosecco, and garnish with fresh basil, a thin slice of cucumber, or a cube of watermelon—dealer’s choice!
• Regular Tanqueray will work for this recipe. I just particularly enjoy the extra citrus notes of Tanqueray 10.
• If short on time, instead of infusing the gin, you can shake the cocktail with three slices of cucumber and four basil leaves for a similar effect. Just be sure to fine-strain the mixture when you pour the cocktail.
• The cocktail name comes from the Henry James quote: “Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”