Grand Marnier picks cocktail winner

'Beverage Arts Challenge' winner Diane Silvey is flanked by the final-round judges (from left) Dale Degroff, Jim Meehan, Tony Abou-Ganim and Eben Freeman.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA -- Diane Silvey, representing the Bellagio of Las Vegas, knows her Grand Marnier.

Competing against Malachi Topping of the Charleston Place Hotel of Charleston, SC, and Alexander Velez from Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in the final round of the "2009 Beverage Arts Challenge" at the new SLS Hotel, Silvey wowed the judges with her original cocktail, appropriately called the Grand Finale.

Grand Marnier and Travel + Leisure magazine co-sponsored the event, which required all contestants to create an original cocktail using the orange liqueur as one of its components.

Judges were:

• Tony Abou-Ganim, owner of The Modern Mixologist company and co-owner of the new Bar Milano in New York.
• Dale DeGroff, writer/mixologist and president of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans.
• Eben Freeman of Tailor in New York.
• Jim Meehan of PDT, also in New York.

Silvey is a frequent competitor in brand-sponsored cocktail combinations. Here's her winning recipe this time around.


1 ounce Grand Marnier
1½ ounces guava nectar
1½ ounces Sence Rose Nectar
1 squeeze of fresh lemon wedge
Splash of Veuve Clicquot Champagne
Long, thin orange peel

Combine first four ingredients in ice-filled mixing glass. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with Veuve Clicquot. Garnish with orange peel scattered on top.

Grand Marnier was created in 1880 and is the world's top-selling liqueur. It retails at a suggested retail price of $38 for the 750ml bottle. It also is available in two higher marques -- Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire ($155) and Grand Marnier Cuvée du Cent Cinquantenaire ($240).

A very good substitute for those seeking an orange liqueur on a budget is Gran Gala from Italy's Stock company. It goes for a suggested retail price of $19. Go here and scroll down for my tasting notes on Gran Gala.

[Go here for recipes on the two other finalists' drinks.]
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