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At heart, Morgan Zuch is a bartender, but for the past three years she has mixed things up as the Bar Manager and General Manager of Datz Restaurant Group. She thrives on education and has recently become certified in BarSmarts Advanced, Level One Cicerone and Sommelier. Morgan has been hand-selected to attend the prestigious Camp Runamok this year. She was the winner of the 2014 Creative Loafing Margarita Wars and has been chosen to participate in several cocktail competitions this year. As a member of the USBG Tampa Chapter she is proud to have served Bay area cocktail aficionados for more than 12 years.
I was recently in Charleston, SC participating in the BarSmarts Live certification. After the exams I went out and met several huge names in the bar industry including Willy Shine. I heard about the VEEV competition from him and really wanted a chance to learn from him side by side in New Orleans. I decided to think about what inspires me to “drink better” and “create a better way to drink” for this competition. At Datz, we carry VEEV Acai and I had never really explored what the spirit could do. In making several cocktails to test I was instantly bored by the berry, fruity route and really wanted to explore another option that could showcase another side of what this spirit can do, hence “cheat on boring.” I also thought about “drinking better.” At home I juice vegetables and fruits all of the time for health benefits and because of just how much better it tastes in general. I make a delicious mixture of carrot juice, ginger, almond milk, bananas, cinnamon and vanilla. I know acai berries pair well in the culinary world with all of these ingredients but wanted to take out the ginger as not to overpower the other flavors. I had to think of a way to serve this as a cocktail versus a smoothie style drink and came up with a cinnamon banana foam to top the mixture of VEEV Acai, vanilla, lemongrass and carrot juice.
“Drinking better” to me means using fresh ingredients that are carefully paired together to create a new, innovative way to enjoy them. I feel like a cocktail should take you on a complete sensory journey from the inspiration/origin, smell, taste, appearance and finish. This can be enhanced by the bartender with a story, educational facts on how it’s made or what’s in it, or the inspiration behind the origin of the cocktail, beer, or even wine. In turn, you are creating memories for people and teaching them that they can enjoy a beverage just as much, if not more, than their food.
VEEV is very versatile. You can really do so much with it. I discovered this myself in this competition. Look into doing a food pairing with the acai berries to really get into a more unique cocktail. You can also keep it simple with a sour, fizz or just drink it on the rocks!
Smooth, slightly sweet with fresh berries, versatile, clean, bright.
Recipe by Morgan Zuch
1 1/2 oz. VEEV Acai
1 1/2 oz. Carrot Juice
1/2 oz. Monin Lemongrass
1/4 oz. Vanilla Extract
8 oz. Cinnamon Simple Syrup
4 Egg Whites
1/4 oz. Banana Extract
For the foam:
Mix 4 egg whites, 8 oz. cinnamon simple syrup, 1/4 oz. Banana extract (bakers).
Pour ingredients into a whipped cream CO2 canister and charge with CO2. Let chill for 3 hours.
1 Cup Sugar, 1 Part Hot Water. Seep 8-10 Cinnamon Sticks Steeped into Mixture.
Chill a coupe glass with ice. Pour out the ice. Combine 1 1/2 oz. VEEV Acai, 1 1/2 oz. Fresh Carrot Juice (or Bolthouse Farms Carrot Juice as a Substitute), 1/2 oz. Monin Lemongrass, and 1/4 oz. Vanilla Extract in a mixing glass. Add ice and shake for 10-15 seconds until well chilled. Strain into well chilled coupe glass. Top with Banana foam, banana slice, and ground cinnamon.
Ground Cinnamon, Sliced
I first took in the VEEV motto: Cheat on boring, cheat on same ole same ole and immediately wanted to stay away from another “fruity” cocktail. My next thought was to incorporate VEEV’s “drinking better” into a cocktail. At home my favorite nutritious way to drink better is fresh carrot juice, ginger, almond milk, vanilla, banana, and cinnamon. I used this as a base for what I made but wanted to be sure to brighten it up with lemongrass to bring out the acai and also compliment the carrot juice. To get the flavor of banana into this I knew a foam would be the tastiest and also the best mouth feel. I achieved this best with a banana extract since I could easily charge it with CO2 in combination with the egg white and cinnamon simple syrup. For a garnish and to really get a great nose on the cocktail, I topped it with ground cinnamon and a slice of banana! Delicious, healthy, interesting, and a perfect way to drink better!
VEEV, now 70 Proof, is a handcrafted premium spirit, that is infused with just the right amount of Acai and other natural flavors like prickly pear and acerola cherry which makes it a better alternative to vodka. Crafted at our award winning distillery that is powered by renewable wind energy, VEEV is distilled in small batches to ensure we achieve a perfectly balanced taste. The result is a versatile, full-bodied spirit with a smooth finish. So go ahead, cheat on the harsh taste and same ole boring vodka you’ve grown tired of. #CheatOnVodka