Heavenly Light

Heavenly Light
Read to see the light

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"El Valiente" Trent Simpson's Entry for Northern CA 2014 Bacardi Legacy Cocktail National Competition: Feb 18th in Miami

"El Valiente"
Trent Simpson's Entry for Northern CA 2014 Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Regional Competition: Feb 10th at Bergerac, in San Francisco.

The cocktail I have created, "El Valiente" represents my legacy by defining all the characteristics that make up not only a good cocktail, but a great bartender as well. We need to be brave and daring, but have the audacity to make something bold that still maintains the integrity of what goes inside the glass and who serves it. All of these qualities have inspired me to be forever in legend and legacy, "El Valiente!"

Glassware: Old Fashioned (10oz)

Ice: Large Cube


1.5 part(s) Bacardi Superior / Smooth and Almond notes

1/2 part(s) Averna/ Herbaceous and Caramel

1/2 part(s) Dry Curaçao Pierre Ferrand/ Dry and Orange

1 part(s) Lime Juice/ Freshly Squeezed

1  part(s) Egg Whites/ Freshly Cracked

1 part(s) Bundaberg Ginger Beer/Carbonated, mildly sweet and somewhat spicy

In a mixing tin add all ingredients minus the ginger beer. Seal well and dry shake vigorously.  Add
ice and shake again, vigorously as well. Strain cocktail into Old Fashioned Glass containing Glass containing a large crystal clear ice cube. Carefully add ginger beer, garnish* and serve.

*Garnish: Carefully peel large twist of Valencia Orange with a channel knife or peeler. Express essences of citrus peel over the cocktail and form into twist. Then, insert delicately on cocktail so it rests on the ice, absorbs a little but of the foam, and hangs ever so slightly over the rim of the glass.

Inspiration: The inspiration for this cocktail comes from the character "El Valiente" from the Latin Bingo game, "Lotería." In imagining what this character would drink, I figured a seductive fizz with a decent amount of citrus and spice would be perfect. Bacardi Superior has a dry and subtle character that mingles with Averna and is accentuated with froth and citrus.  Just like this cocktail, "El Valiente" is brave and daring, refined and sweet, your best friend, or worst enemy depending on how you play your cards.

- Trent Simpson
San Francisco, CA

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Joga Bonita: Leblon Cachaça World Cup Cocktail Competition Semifinal Entry


This was my formal submission for Round Two of the Maison Leblon 2014 World Cup Bartender Competition.  I didn't win, but there is some thoughtful information here that I thought I would share!  I have answered the questions and described how to make my cocktail, the "Joga Bonito" cocktail for the global semi-finals for the Maison Leblon World Cup Cocktail Competition of 2014.  I hope you enjoy, congrats to all the winners and I'll still see you in Brasil!  And if anybody from the top 11 can't make it, give me a ring and I'll fill in!

Trent Simpson


1. What inspired you to become a bartender? 

In all honesty, the art of perfecting the art of the Caipirinha and bringing it back the American people was one of my deepest inspirations for becoming a bartender.  I could write a laundry list of other things that inspired me, but the strongest driving force was Brasil, Cachaça and Caipirinhas.  I was infatuated with the combination of limes, sugar and cachaça from my travels to Brasil after my senior year of High School.  I desperately needed to bring this secret back to the States, but needed to perfect the methods, or "Jeito de fazer" the perfect Caipirinha.  I spent a whole year "studying" in Salvador da Bahia my Junior year in college.  My biggest inspiration was a man, a bartender, a legend, who called himself, "Jesus." He always had the most beautiful outdoor Caipirinha bars at all the best events, parties and beaches I was going to.  Was he stalking me, or were we just like minded people?!  His technique and pizzaz, coupled with his amazing display of elegantly cut fruit and enormous personality created a lasting impression.  After returning, I started working in a restaurant my senior year of college, I envied the bartenders and I knew it was my calling.  I made Caipirinhas every chance I had, for guests at my house, and pop up bars and at parties. When I graduated, I took off to Brasil again--in a sort of "Sem Destino" way-- looking for a my opportunity to live on the beach, and be like "Jesus" making drinks for people and welcoming fellow travelers at all the best events.  His "jeito" always inspired me to be the best, most accommodating and fun bartender,  I never knew that "Jesus'" inspiration, and a sugar cane based spirit, fresh fruit and sugar would lead me down such a wonderful career path.

2. How long have you been bartending?

Professionally, I have been bartending for over seven years, starting with my tenure at Bossa Nova in San Francisco.   However, I started mixing drinks when I was (at most) 16 for my Mom's Friday Afternoon Parties.  I was also fetching Single Malt Scotch for my Dad and Uncle in our late night family poker games over the holidays, blending my own virgin concoctions.  Since then, I have strived to make the perfect Caipirinha, or Cosmo, or any cocktail for anyone at any given time.  After I graduated college I traveled again to Brasil for more research, and learned to perfect Caipirinhas, Batidas and the overall Jeito Brasileiro.  When I finally made it back to the states, inspired by Caipirinhas and Brasil, I made my play to get a job bartending.  I succeeded and got a gig as a barback at a Brasilian restaurant called Bossa Nova.  I worked 4 nights a week hoping for the day to make my own drinks behind the bar, and finally I got my first bartending shift.  From Bossa Nova, I have grown my career into a full fledged professional bartender and my desire for the profession and commitment to the craft has never been more prominent.   From my days of fetching Scotch or making "Batidas" for fellow "mochileros" in Pousadas on my travels around Brasil, to being known for mixing up "Trent Dogs" in my dorm room in Washington DC--I have always been a bartender in some capacity.  After seven years of making a living of it in San Francisco, I am a proud member of the Executive Council for the Northern California Chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild and look forward to every shift.

3. What do you think makes you a good bartender?

Bartending a profession that covers so many facets that are intrinsic to being a 'good bartender' and takes a lifetime to master. From service, to cocktails, ambiance, presentation, technique, and technical skill, being a good bartender is ultimately about making a great experience for the customer.  Its so important to make every customer that comes through the door feel comfortable and happy, engaging them in conversation and delivering a quality product that suits the particular needs while having fun, being efficient and smiling at the same time.  If one can properly achieve all of these attributes with each customer, then I would render these qualities essential to making one a good bartender.  I strive to achieve all of these facets with everyone that walks through the door to my bar, or comes to indulge in a libation with me in my living room.  I love the fact that you never know who is going to sit down in front of you, and I love being able to cater to the people from all walks of life.  I strive for these experience on a day to day basis, and in order to consider myself a good bartender, it is essential to achieve this day in and day out.  However, with any profession, there always room for improvement in every facet of the job, and if we constantly seek to improve, as I always am, then one can consider themselves as on the path to being a good bartender. 

4. When you're not behind the bar, where can you be found?

I love to go to the beach, play futebol, ski, golf, travel, cook, garden or visit nature and enjoy outdoor activities on my free time.  I enjoy exploring the city I live in, San Francisco, and Bay Area because it has so much to offer.  From wine country to beaches, parks, pick up soccer games, and world class bars and restaurants, there is a lot to keep me busy when I'm not behind-the-stick.  Some of my favorite things to do are: take a quick jaunt through the Marin Headlands while listening to a new playlist, such as the Leblon HOTBAB on Spotify, and end up at a little seaside cafe and eat some fresh clams, sip a Leblon Caipirinha and watch the sunset along Stinson Beach.  Or, maybe maybe a cruise into Tilden park to escape the wind and enjoy a few holes of golf, drive the windy roads and grab some fresh produce from a local farmers market to put in a delicious libation for later.  I like to live life to the fullest, find little treasures everywhere, in work and play, live and love, teach and learn from others how to find the finer things in life!

5. You're life's motto is:

My life motto is based on a combination of the messages in two of my favorite songs, "Vamos Fugir" by Gilberto Gil and "Deixa a Vida me Levar" by Zecca Pagodinho.  If you let life take you, life will take you for the better, you can escape, travel, or just live, but as long as you are happy, then life will be great.  In a nutshell: If you live everyday better than the next, then every day will be the best day of your life!

6. What does it mean to you to 'Be Brazilian Be Leblon'?

Being Brasilian and Being Leblon translates back to my life's motto where one must live life first, with an ora of happiness at the forefront.  Like Steve Luttman says in his book, How to Be a Brazilian, "What truly distinguishes Brazilians is the certain jeito about them--a certain warmth and spontaneity that's as indescribable as it is infectious."  Thus, for me to describe it here is no small task, but what I do know it that from loving family to enjoying free time, laughing, celebrating, eating and drinking and dancing--if you cherish the good things in life, then every day will be the best day of your life. Being Brazilian and Being Leblon relates to how Brazilians live on a day to day basis, and we all know how awesome that is!  For me, I see Being Brazilian and Being Leblon as a mantra to always live life first.   Whether on the beach or at a backyard churrassco, at a giant festival or a birthday celebration, Being Brazilian is Being Leblon and vice versa.

7. Why do you want to be a part of Team Maison Leblon and travel with us to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?

In 2007 when FIFA announced the World Cup would be held in Brazil, I knew I wanted to go under any circumstances.   Being a part of The Team Maison Leblon and travel to the World Cup in Brazil would be a culmination of everything I am passionate about in my life.  From my profession as a bartender, to my hobbies and favorite sport being soccer, my love for travel, especially Brasil, and my  commitment to contribute to a team.  I spent two years of my life living and learning the culture and language of Brasil.  Based in Salvador da Bahia I was able to take part in what it truly means to "Be Brasilian," and now I would want more than anything to use that knowledge to "Be Leblon" as part of the Team Maison Leblon World Cup 2014.  "Deixa a Vida me Levar, Vida Leva Eu."  I've let life take me, I've traveled, I've worked hard and I've enjoyed every minute of it all.  Most importantly, life has brought me to this intersection where it all seems to make sense for what I want most: Live, Love and become a member of the Leblon Maison World Cup 2014 World Cup Team, it will make me the happiest person in the world! 

8. If chosen for Team Maison Leblon, what will you do over the next seven months to spread the word about Leblon?

Leblon's marketing has always inspired me--its sexy, seductive and intrinsic to the culture and message of what Brasil and the Brasilian people are all about.  Just like the players on the "Seleção Brasileiro" it takes a certain "Cabeza" to be part of the team.  You need a top level of skill, commitment, charisma and, but most importantly a proper "jeito" and strong commitment to the greater goal, to be part of the most renowned squad in the world.  For me this will be the most renowned bartending squad in the world, and I would be honored to be an integral part of it!  If selected, I promise that I will do everything to uphold the values of Leblon, Brazil, Professional Bartenders around the globe and commit my passion for the craft to make this exceptional team the best it can be.  From social media, to blogs, customers who approach me at my bar and random strangers on street corner to close acquaintances and family, I will tell them and the world professionally, excitedly and "com muito orgulho" that I am the right person to be on the Maison Leblon 2014 World Cup Team!  If chosen, I will feel "Pura Alegria" for the next seven months and use that energy to promote  us all, Vamos Maison Leblon 2014 World Cup Team!

Cocktail Entry: "Joga Bonito"

My cocktail, "Joga Bonito," is a representation of the diversity of Brasil,  the beauty in which Brasilians play futebol, and is homage to the delicious flavors and culture that one can put in a Caipirinha, especially when using the finest ingredients, such as Leblon Cachaça.    We are all going to watch the Seleção Brasiliera go for their sixth championship in 2014, so I invite you to take a journey with me as sip my cocktails along the way.  From round one,  I was proud to present the Hexa, a cocktail that combines the flavors from my terroir in San Francisco, and represents my desire to go to Brasil and be a part of the Maison Leblon World Cup Team.  For round two, I present the "Joga Bonito," a cocktail that encompasses everything wonderful about the game of futebol, the complex and unique flavors of all Leblon products, embodies the spirit of Brasil and embraces the mantra: "Be Brasilan, Be Leblon."

Joga Bonito:
Ingredients you will need:

Leblon Cachaça
Leblon Reserva Especial
Cedilla Açaí Liqueur
Passion Fruits (Maracuja)
Turbinado Sugar
Starfruit (Carambola)
Rosemary Sprigs (Alecrim)
Cinnamon Sticks (Canela)
Cloves (Cravo)
Sphere Shaped (Tovolo or 2.5" sphere cube equivalent) Ice Cubes


Double Old Fashioned 11 oz


Preferably (but not necessary if not available) shaken with Kold Draft Ice
Use Tovolo Mold Sphere Ice Cube for Presentation if available

Joga Bonito

1 oz Leblon Cachaça
1 oz Leblon Reserva Especial
1 oz Passion Fruit and Cinnamon (Maracuja e Canela) Reduction*
1/2 oz Cedilla Açaí Liqueur
Clove and Rosemary Studded Starfruit Slice**

Combine all ingredients minus Cedilla in a mixing glass, add ice, seal and shake vigorously to the rhythm of a samba beat for eight seconds.  Strain over a large sphere shaped ice cube in a double rocks glass.  Carefully take the Cedilla Açaí Liqueur and drizzle over the back of a barspoon, creating a cascade effect (por-do-sol).  Attach garish to rim of glass.  Feel free to add  flexible straw if desired.

Preferable Background Music:
While preparing:

Aline Calixto & Serjão Loroza, "Praia e Sol (Maracanã, Futebol)

Marcelo D2, "1967" or latter selections from Leblon HOTBAB Spotify Playlist

While Drinking:

Gonzaguinha, "O Que E O Que E?" 

Samba de Raiz, "Coração Em Desalinho"

Take a sip, indulge and imagine the Seleção playing with a lead in the 90th minute of the final match of the 2014 World Cup, sit back, enjoy,  but most importantly Live, Love, Leblon and Joga Bonito!

*Passion Fruit Reduction Preparation:

First, cut open two Passion Fruits and scoop out contents into a blender.  Blend for 1 minute.  Fine strain to remove pulp and seeds.

Measure amount of Passion Fruit Purée and put in sauce pan on low heat.  Slowly add half amount of Turbinado (for example 4 oz Passion Fruit Purée to 2 oz Sugar) to pan and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Grate a fine amount of cinnamon (about the amount of a pinch) into reduction, only about 3-4 seconds worth, just to get the essence of the cinnamon and not over power. Do not let reduction boil.  Keep stirring for 1 minute after sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Store in a squeeze bottle (refrigerated can last up to 4 days) for easy use in cocktail preparation.

**Garnish Preparation:

Clove Studded Starfruit with Rosemary Sprig (Note: Photo is of Persimmon due to seasonal availability in San Francisco)

Carefully remove outer, extreme edge (brownish and firm part of pointed part) of Starfruit and slice into .5 cm wide star shaped pieces.  Carefully remove and seeds with knife if necessary.  For each star shaped piece, add five cloves, one to each point of the star.  Depending on the size of the Starfruit, you may want to use a larger piece towards the middle better to hold the cloves in place.  Then, place a small sprig (less than 1 cm in length) of rosemary through the center of the star.  Cut a tiny sliver on one of the inside points of the star shaped garnish, big enough so it will sit on the rim of glass, but not too deep as to break apart or invade cloves and/or rosemary.  Prepare as many as needed and place on separate plate for easy access to garnish on rim of glass once cocktail is prepared.  Attach to side of glass. 

Joga Bonito Embodies the "Espiritú do Brasil:"
Using both Leblon Velhada and Leblon Cachaça represents the duality of modern and new cultures in Brasil, older styles of play and new techniques, history and innovation, and most importantly the the wonderful fact the old and young people alike will stop whatever they are doing to watch the game.  Passionfruit, or Maracuja, is one of the most delicious fruits in Brasil, and represents not only the passion for the game, from not just Brasilians, but myself, and the world, for the sport of futebol.  However, the passion doesn't stop there: Brasilians have passion in everything they do in their culture from music, to flirting or namorando, going to the beach, festivities and festivals like Carnaval or São João, talking, drinking and dancing.  Brasil is all about passion, taste it in the cocktail.  The Cedilla Açaí Liqueur not only represents the Amazon region and the lush rainforest, but also the "beleza natural" of the country and tropical vibe, laid back lifestyle and commitment to health Brasilians embody.  The Starfruit or "Carambola" garnish represents the title, the glory, and the quest to be the best.  The 5 cloves represent the people of Brasil and the previous championships.  If Brasil wins, it will be their unprecedented sixth championship (Hexa Campeão) and everyone will add another star to their jersey!  Cravo is also there with Canela representing the rich and complex history, and prominent literature movements such as Brasilian Modernism, with Jorge Amado's timeless novel, Gabriela, Cravo e Canela.  The Rosemary (Alecrim) adds the "verde" to the Carambola which delivers savory element to the cocktail and represents the flag's motto: "Ordem e Progresso."  The Joga Bonito is served in a double rocks glass on a large sphere ice cube, representing not only a soccer ball, the blue in the Brasilian flag, unity and tranquilidade as the Cedilla creates a cascading sunset in the glass.  The Joga Bonita represents not only Brasil, but the world we live in--this is the World Cup after all, so the Joga Bonito is the World in a Cup!  Enjoy responsibly, but always Live Love, Leblon, and Joga Bonito, e nos vemos no Brasil!