Prosecco competition: More than Italian fizz

Prosecco competition: More than Italian fizz

Just when you think that a wine focused event will require a total emersion into the visual, smell, and taste of the product, I was delighted to be surprised by a light-hearted, fun and creative approach to Prosecco.

Cinzano may not be the first brand that pops into your brain when you think Prosecco – and perhaps this is why the company worked with the Founder of Champagne Week, Blaine Ashley, to develop a prosecco cocktail competition. The wine does “play well with others,” lending itself artfully to fruit and vegetable juices as well as peat – rich scotch and aged dark rum.

Spirited Challenge

For the competition, leading mixologists pushed traditional bar requests to the end of the line and focused on combining Cinzano Prosecco with spirits from Palm Bay International’s portfolio that included Drumshanbo Irish Gunpowder Gin, Los Amantes Mezcal Reposado, Ravo Vodka, Bribon Tequila, Dos Maderas Rum and Bauchant Orange Liqueur.

What is Prosecco?

The late ripening Glera grape is used to produce Prosecco. The varietal is indigenous to northeastern Italy’s Veneto region. The DOC is Prosecco di Congeliano Valdobbiandene and the designated production zone for the best wines lies west of Conegliao near the Piave River, in the sub-alpine zone of the province of Treviso. The best Prosecco is produced in lower yielding vineyards where the outcome is dry with hints of pistachio and apples and a fizz that is as gentle and subtle as a summer rain.

Prosecco is made using the Charmat method and does not undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle nor is it aged extensively on lees. It is fermented in tanks before bottling, with low atmospheric pressure and a light fizz in order to preserve its light fruity and fresh essence. Approximately 150 million bottles are produced annually.

Most Prosecco should be consumed within three years of its vintage; however, the highest-quality can be aged for up to seven years. A sparkling wine by definition has no vintage and this is done to have a product with organoleptic characteristics that are constant over time.


The Cinzano brand dates back in wine history to the mid-18th century when brothers Giovanni Giacomo and Carol Stefano Cinzano began producing Vermouth in Turin by combining local herbs, spices and wines; sparkling wine production began in the mid-19th century and today the company produces a range of these products. Cinzano Prosecco DOC is an aromatic sparkling wine from the areas of Coline Tregigiane, a region in Northern Italy.

To Mix or Not to Mix

I approached the mixing of sparkling wines with other liquids to make cocktails as a bit of whimsy; sparkling wines should stand alone and apart from others. What was intriguing however, was the flexibility and resourcefulness of the mixologists. Choices are always good and playing matchmaker between Prosecco, rum, scotch, sherry, etc. can end in a torrid affair.

The Event

The competition was held at the Seamstress, a UES Manhattan neighborhood restaurant noted for its dynamic bar and creative menu. Industry professionals populated the event, encouraging the mixologists who were eager to share their backgrounds, restaurant/bar information, and the inspiration(s) for their cocktails.

Craig Schleido and Guests
Mimi Burnham, New York Brand Ambassador, The Perfect Purée
Mimi Burnham, New York Brand Ambassador, The Perfect Purée
Eric Thorner Field Manager, NY Metro, Palm Bay International with Naomi Baldinger
Eric Thorner Field Manager, NY Metro, Palm Bay International with Naomi Baldinger


While all the cocktails were complex and delicious, the rules of engagement determined that there would be only two winners: the Crowd Favorite and the Judges Favorite.

Stevie Gray, a mixologist at Cecconi’s Dumbo received the award from the Crowd (bartenders, restaurant owners, retailers, journalists, other trade professionals and friends). She can enjoy her prize – a 25-year old bottle of Gran Duque D’Alba Brandy (Retail value $150).

The professional judges determined that the cocktail designed by Nicole Salicetti of Railway Bar was the best in show. Salicetti walked off $500 richer.

Other contestants included:

Mela D’Amore by McSon Salicetti of Crimson & Rye

Fenice Flama by Becca Pesce of Dead Rabbit

Unconventional Lovers by Trish Rosienne of Monk McGinn’s. If there was a prize for the “most attractive” cocktail – this one would have been a winner!

The British Tea Party by Craig Schleido of Ousia. This is a perfect blend for tea drinkers (Tetley take note). Regardless of the time of day or day of the week, this delicious brew should be experienced.

Spa Water by Meaghan Montagano is the go-to beverage after spending a few hours at the gym. Every club on the planet should offer this appealing “water” to all their guests. It would certainly be a motivator to me – if I knew that Montagano’s Spa Water was waiting for me as I struggled into my winter coat, mittens, scarf and hat after a workout – I might even linger a bit longer for a refill.

For Additional Information

The Consorzio di Tutela della DOC Prosecco has formed Casa Prosecco DOC USA and it will serve as the denomination’s official source of news and information in the USA, the second largest importer of Prosecco worldwide.

© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.

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