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Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Competition Highlights August 2015 - February 2016

At this rate it seems I'll only be writing a blog post about twice a year; every time something interesting happens in my world of bartending I always feel like I leave too much time before posting. Fortunately now I think I have a plan for how to get posts up even though I feel it's 'too late', in the form of 'Flashback Friday's (throwback thursday was already taken) hopefully the first will be up later this week!

I'd also like to try and write about things that aren't competitions, but for now that seemed the easiest way to get back into the swing of things. Here are some notable cocktails I have entered in competitions over the last 7 months.


August 2015

'Sorrel Seems to be the Hardest Word'*:

El Dorado 5 year rum, blood orange syrup, and homemade Jamaican Sorrel.

My second El Dorado competition except without the Coco Lopez or the tiki vibes this time, but that didn't stop me having fun with the presentation! I struck inspiration from the prize being a visit to the Kaieteur Falls in Guyana.

The judges loved the sharer concept, but unfortunately my balance of sweetness was off.

I also got the opportunity to try the more 'top shelf' expressions of El Dorado that day including one of my new favourites: El Dorado 15 year.


September 2015

'Tennessee Fflip'

Jack Daniels tennessee whiskey, fresh blueberry puree, whole egg, lemon, Dead Rabbit orinoco bitters. Served with welsh cakes.

This was a mini competition after a Jack Daniels training session at Rub Birmingham (part of the same company I currently work for). I took inspiration from the welsh side of my family, and took home 1st place.


October 2015

'Licorice Martini'

Reyka vodka, licorice infused vermouth, chocolate bitters.

The smallest comp I think I have ever entered, with only three of us (guaranteed placing anyone?) and also my third Reyka competition. Bagged 2nd place, with feedback of the drink being slightly too sweet.


November 2015

'Pusser's Galore'

Pusser's (blue label) rum, creme de banane, blood orange syrup, Peychaud bitters.

The story behind this drink was inspired by James Bond's days a s a naval officer, and ingredients to create a cocktail suitable for being stranded on a desert island. Rum from the naval ration, banana found on said hypothetical island, blood orange to stave off scurvy, and bitters from Dr Peychaud. Sometimes it's nice to have a fun story behind a drink (and sometimes it's okay to have no story and just a tasty drink).

'Bubbles Up!'

Old Forester bourbon, Aperol, bubblegum syrup, pineapple shrub.

One of my more challenging recipes, getting the balance of bubblegum was crucial (having been criticised previously on more than one occasion for sweet drinks), and also I had never made a shrub before (a shrub essentially being a syrup made with vinegar).

I was quite nervous for this competition, and when I got through to the heats, I was still recovering from surgery on the actual day. Fortunately I had a very helpful friend who stood in as 'Fake Charley' for me and while I didn't place it was nice to continue to get my drinks out there and known.



December 2015

Competitions wind down for the busy bar season, so here is the Christmas special I created for my work place; 'Rudolph the Red Stag Reindeer'.

Using, you guessed it, Reg Stag Cherry bourbon with cream and extra cherry and chocolate flavours to create an indulgent dessert style cocktail for the festive period (and yes, spoiler alert: it's another sweet one).

The Rudolph garnish for this remains my current favourite one that I have created in terms of looks, and ability to mix into the cocktail for more chocolate flavour and a thicker texture.





January 2016

'Having an Absolut Bubble'

Absolut vodka, coconut water, green tea, frozen melon balls.

This probably deserves a blog post all of it's own, being both the biggest competition I've ever done, and my proudest competition achievement.

My entry for the #13thclassic Absolut competition, was a completely original drink and the first Absolut competition since the 90's. First submissions were back in December and then I made it all the way to the final five in the National final at the end of January. You can watch my video entry here, and a video made by Absolut of the final day here if you're interested.



February 2016

'Mirabellis on 43rd Street'

Licor 43, tropical syrup, lemon juice, egg white, passion fruit bitters, and Spanish bitters.

A competition I entered for nostalgic reasons, as Licor 43 put on an all-female competition back in November 2014 and it was the first cocktail competition I entered - with no real idea how competitions worked or what was expected.

My drink was created with my mum's palette in mind as the theme was Mother's Day, so the cocktail was an Eton Mess inspired dessert cocktail, with tropical fruit flavours. The other part of the competition was to create an accompanying chaser, for which mine was based on a cherry bakewell; combing the Licor 43 with amaretto and a cherry foam top.


As I reach the end of this post, I realise I should probably explain how cocktail competitions work for the benefit of those not as heavily involved in the bar industry. I suppose it varies from competition to competition, but the main idea is to firstly: create a tasty and well balanced drink using the spirit/brand the competition is for, and usually the cocktail needs to have something unique or special about it in order to stand out, whether that be an unusual ingredient or style of serve, or an inspirational story behind the cocktail; secondly get up to speed on your brand knowledge and history because the more of that you can show, the more extra points you can earn; and thirdly other criteria such as cocktail appearance and aroma can also be judged.

I have a mixed relationship with cocktail competitions. Certain things will annoy me such as when judges will be looking for something specific without really telling you, or the overall weighting of points isn't biased toward the actual taste of the cocktail; but on the whole I think cocktail competitions are a great way to build confidence, network, showcase your more creative ideas, and learn more from others too.


*shoutout to my friend James for the name of this one!

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