At its home several blocks from the French Quarter, Seven Three Distilling Co. (310 N. Claiborne Ave., 504-265-8545) distills and blends its array of flagship and small-batch spirits, offers tours and has a tasting room and bar, which has happy hours 5 p.m.to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Renee Gaubert manages the tasting room and bar, and she and distiller Erik Morningstar make liqueurs, vermouths, bitters and other ingredients to mix cocktails, since distilleries are not allowed to serve outside spirits. Seven Three hosts its first cocktail competition Saturday, Aug. 24, and attendees will determine the winner.
Gambit: How will the cocktail competition work?
Gaubert: We’re hoping to make it a series. This is the spritz edition for summer. It hones in on what kinds of cocktails people are making now.
We reached out to bartenders at restaurants that serve our spirits, and eight will compete. We provide the spirits — bartenders can use our vodka, cucumber vodka, gin or moonshine or the barrel-aged gin. They can’t use other spirits, but bitters are fine. They can use club soda and their own ingredients. We recommend they batch the cocktails in advance and serve them here. Cups are standard 5-ounce cups. People can try all the cocktails and cast their votes. The winner will be announced at 9 p.m.
Gambit: What kind of cocktails have you made with the spirits distilled here?
Gaubert: The moonshine is interesting to work with. We make it with some of the yeasts that are used to make tequila or rum. I made a variation of the Hemingway daiquiri, which is a rum drink. I mixed it with a grapefruit liqueur that we make in house. The moonshine has an earthy flavor from the rice. I call that the Six-Toed Cat, because Hemingway had six-toed cats, and it sounds like a creature you’d find in the swamp.
The rum has a lot of banana notes (from the yeasts). It is made with Louisiana molasses, so it has a sweet note up front. I made a banana liqueur to put in the drink with some cream of coconut. I call it the Blame it on the Rain because it’s kind of like a colada — it doesn’t have the pineapple, but it has the coconut and the rum to give it a Caribbean flair. It has El Guapo bitters.
Gambit: What kinds of liqueurs do you make?
Gaubert: We have to make all of our liqueurs. You make a liqueur by combining fruit or an herbal extract with a spirit. For a fruit-based liqueur, depending on how tart or sweet you want it, you let it sit it for a certain amount of time. Basically, I keep tasting it until the flavor is what I want and then filter out the fruit. It’s the same thing if you make extracts or a tincture to get the oils out of the herb. That’s what I do for the vermouths.
I tend to make about three cases of a liqueur at a time because it’s easier to do it all at once. So customers can buy a bottle of liqueur if they want to have it to make one of our cocktails.
Our coffee liqueur is nice. I wanted to have a coffee liqueur to be able to do white Russians. My first bartending job was at Rock ’n’ Bowl, and I made a lot of white Russians. Since Kahlua is what we did our research on, it’s a rum-based liqueur. We use that and our vodka in our white Russian.
Erik made an absinthe that I use to rinse glasses for Sazeracs. The absinthe is made with rum by adding wormwood, anise and botanicals.