Thomas Gisler, right, Cheryl Stanley and Heather Kolakowski taste samples at the Student Recipe Competition on March 11. 

Hotel Ezra Cornell drink winners play up pineapple

The signature drinks for Hotel Ezra Cornell 97 – which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration – will both feature the humble pineapple, long a symbol of warmth in the hospitality industry.

The drinks were chosen at the Nolan School’s Student Recipe Competition on March 11 and will be served at Hotel Ezra Cornell, a student-run business conference for international hospitality industry leaders and hotel alumni, now in its 97th year. The Nolan School will be kicking off its centennial at the HEC event, to be held April 21-24.

Conference participants will be able to toast with drink winners “Centennial French” – which honors the classic cocktail French 75 – in a Cornellian and pineapple way, and the reddish mocktail “Pucker-Up Pineapple.”

Jake Rallo ’22 created and mixed the Centennial French, featuring an ounce of gin, pineapple juice, one-half ounce of Campari (the dark red Italian liqueur) and a quarter-ounce of lemon juice, which is then shaken with ice. When strained into a rocks glass, it creates a red base. Rallo finished the drink with sparkling wine, so the cocktail had a red bottom and white top.

As the HEC’s beverage manager a year ago, Rallo had created a similar drink. “I wanted to stick with that tradition,” he said. “I decided again to do a twist off of the classic French 75, with the pineapple representing hospitality, adding Campari for a bitter core to balance the sweetness and offer that red hue that represents Cornell.”

Jake Rallo ’22 pours Campari and creates the signature “Centennial French” beverage for the judges.

The nonalcoholic Pucker-Up Pineapple was created and mixed by Hannah MacDonald ’22.

The recipe calls for two ounces of pomegranate juice, two ounces of pineapple juice and one-half ounce each of mint simple syrup and lime juice, with ice. The recipe is shaken, strained and poured into a rocks glass. MacDonald tops the drink off with Martinelli’s sparking apple cider.

“I’m equal part Cornell and Hotelie,” she said. “I wanted to do something that was both for Cornellians and hospitality for the Nolan School.”

For Heather Kolakowski ‘00, lecturer at the Nolan School and a faculty adviser to HEC, the signature drink recipe contest was exciting. “This year’s Hotel Ezra Cornell will be an amazing weekend. The students have been planning it since August,” she said. “Having this competition added a little complexity, but it also added an opportunity for outreach that we haven’t done before.”

The other cocktail recipe finalists were David Salmonson ’24 with “The Cucumber Gimlet” and Ray Lam ’24, “Bit of Life.” The other mocktail recipe finalists were Krishna Talati ’22, “The 100” and Rallo, “The Big Red Spritz.”

In addition to Kolakowski, the contest judges were Kate Walsh, dean of the Nolan School; Cheryl Stanley '00, senior lecturer, Nolan School; Thomas Gisler, director of food and beverage for Cornell’s Statler Hotel; Lisa Vinson, director of alumni affairs at Cornell SC Johnson College of Business; Beth Wiederspiel, events manager, Alumni Affairs; Hayley Martin ’22, managing director, HEC 97; Victoria Whitney ’22, beverage director, HEC 97; and and Blaine Friedlander, University Relations.

Rallo has participated in Hotel Ezra Cornell since he started at Cornell. “I’ve been on the beverage team at HEC since freshman year as a bartender and it really was an integral component of my Cornell experience,” he said. “Winning this contest senior year brings my experience full circle. This year’s recipe contest and events just have been really inspiring.”

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Lindsey Knewstub