Doris Gao wins Australia’s first Calvados cocktail competition

On Sunday 23 April, eight finalists competed in the Calvados Christian Drouin Highball Competition at Sydney’s Baxter Inn.

Hosted by Cerbaco Distribution, the event was the first Calvados cocktail competition in Australia. 80 bartenders submitted their drinks to the competition, from which eight finalists were chosen. The event was a success, according to the organisers.

“This competition helped us to build up the Calvados category, [which is] usually underrated,” said Carl Jenny, brand ambassador for Cerbaco Distribution. “This contest exceeded all our expectations, and definitely highlighted the big potential of Calvados with cocktail bars.”

The Finalsts were tasked with recreating their drinks two time: firstly for a blind tasting, then presenting it again in front of the judging panel. The winner was chef-turned-mixologist Doris Gao, with her cocktail, Calvados, Hi!

Doris began her bartending career during the pandemic, while visiting family in China. Upon returning to Sydney, she began bartending at PS40. Her culinary background impressed on her the importance of flavour parings, which she believes are vital to a quality cocktail.

“When I got the topic, I was like ‘Calvados. Okay, apple ingredients. Check the books, check online, which ones can it pair with?’ Try it and do it. That’s what I’ve done with all my drinks,” she explained.

Doris’s winning cocktail utilised Christian Drouin Calvados Reserve, which she chose for its combination of bitter, sweet, and sharp apple flavours. She paired this with yuzu sake, honey syrup and lemon juice, garnishing the drink with mint and lemon wedges. Interestingly, Doris chose to simply shake and serve her cocktail, rather than add soda as in a traditional highball.

“When I drink a cocktail,” she told the judges before pausing to vigorously shake her cocktail, “I would like to have my drink full bodied, with more layers, and long finishing.”

Doris had many people to support her at the finals, including many of her PS40 co-workers. They were thrilled at Doris’s win. “I’m absolutely stoked. I’m proud as punch for Doris. She really, really deserves it. She put a lot of time into it and she did fantastically,” said Matt Blackburn, bar manager at PS40.

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