Early this month, the Cochon555 U.S. tour made a stop in Vail for it's annual celebration of heritage pigs and whole-hog utilization. The culinary competition pits celebrity chefs against one another and challenges them to prepare a menu from the entirety of one 200-pound pig, nose-to-tail.
Because food and drink go hand in hand, Cochon this year added a mixology competition, called Punch Kings, where local bartenders squared off to produce a punch that would compliment the delicious, pork-centric offerings the chefs were dishing out.
For it's inaugural foray on the Cochon555 stage, the Punch Kings competition was sponsored by Summit County's own Breckenridge Distillery. Competitors had 30 minutes, a bottle of Breck Bourbon and a large punch bowl to create a masterpiece using their own ingredients.
When vapors cleared, Dustin Hoeft, of Modis bar and restaurant in Breckenridge, defeated five bartenders from Eagle County and was crowned Vail's Punch King. Hoeft said the Punch Kings competition was a natural compliment to the Cochon tour.
"It's becoming more and more a part of restaurants; more a part of having a successful restaurant is selling good drinks," he said. "It's one of those things that it's really popular right now and really booming with whiskeys in general and bourbon and craft spirits."
Competing in events such as Cochon555 is a great way to meet people in the industry and shake hands with some of the best chefs in the country, Hoeft said.
"I did one last year at Copper," he said, referring to other mix-off contests. "This is the first one of this magnitude. We're getting to showcase the stuff that we do out here in Breck and here at Modis."
Hoeft has practice mixing cocktails with Breck Bourbon.
"We have about a dozen drinks on the menu that use Breck Bourbon; it's really popular," he said. "People on vacation want to drink a lot of local beers, local spirits. We use it on our New York strip, a Breck Bourbon demi glaze."
The winning Punch Kings recipe - which is entirely composed of high-quality wine, liquors and liqueurs and fresh fruit - will become a staple on the summer drink menu, when the peaches and cantaloupes used to make it are in their prime, Hoeft said.
And though the drink is an obvious pairing with Modis' blackened pork chop dish with passion fruit pearls, crispy plantains, broccolini and avacado puree, Hoeft said it would also marry up with other items on the menu. He recommended the mussels or the heirloom chicken with smoky mozzarella polenta.