Ortega 120, the Redondo Beach restaurant with a tequila focus, hosted their inaugural “Toma Tequila” Mixology Competition on May 3 as part of their weeklong Cinco celebration. Finalists Christopher Day, Damon Hewlett and Nancy Kwon all competed for the trophy, a deluxe prize pack and greater glory. In the end, it was Day, a 26 year-old PhD student studying chemistry at UCLA, who reigned supreme thanks to his “River Tam.”
I helped to judge the finals along with Ortega 120 co-owner Demi Stevens, FEAST LA editor Carole Dixon, Grub Street Los Angeles editor Hadley Tomicki and Mutineer Magazine Editor-in-Chief Alan Kropf. Taste, visual presentation, creativity, and mixology practicality were all scored using a 5-point scale.
For winning, Day received a $250 gift certificate to Ortega 120, the coveted “Toma Tequila Champion” trophy, an editorial feature in Mutineer Magazine, two tickets to Mutineer’s 2nd Anniversary Party in Hollywood, and the first batch of MIX, the base for Ortega 120’s margaritas. Day’s custom cocktail is also destined for Ortega 120’s menu.
Nancy Kwon won the “People’s Choice” title, a $50 gift-certificate to Ortega 120, and tickets to the MUTINEER Magazine event.
— Here’s Christopher Day’s recipe for the “River Tam” —
– 1 1/2 oz tequila (blanco is fine, but anejo is preferred)
– Juice from 1/2 lime (about 3/4 oz)
– 1/2 oz habañero simple syrup
– 3 small slices fresh ginger root
– Club soda
Finely muddle 2 slices of ginger in habañero simple syrup*, followed by adding tequila and squeezing in the lime. Add ice and shake. Pour into a low ball glass filled with ice (with strainer should you not like pulp) and top it off with club soda and give it a quick stir. For added visual presentation, garnish with a wheel of lime, but it’s not necessary…the drink stands on its own.
*(1 cup water to 1 cup sugar; 4 fresh habañero peppers, stemmed and sliced in half)