The Appleton Estate Bartender Challenge has been an epic competition.
Six regional heats held the length of the UK saw some great performances and inventive drinks put eight finalists through to the UK final.
The final itself was held over two days. The first day saw each competitor take a written rum test and a blind tasting, as well as making their original cocktail, a rum classic and a rum punch.
The written test and blind tasting were tough, with the silence of the room broken only by some huffing and puffing from Jamie Mac as he hand carved a block of ice (using his hand made, made in Japan carving tools) for use in the drinks rounds.
It was clear that even though everyone had prepared for the final (especially Stuart Hudson who was up until the early hours the night before, which had absolutely nothing to do with Rematch Beeyatch), a blind tasting is difficult, and to a man the competitors were nervous about their performances.
However the test scores were kept secret and after lunch it was on to the drinks.
The cocktail round was held with the understanding that drink scores would be combined with test and tasting scores, to cut the field down to four for the following day.
As such, the drinks were to be delivered along with the concept for a presentation bar at the Docklands Museum where consumers would visit the four bars, taste all the drinks then vote for their favourite bartender.
The pressure was therefore high as Joshua Reynolds, Richard Tring, Alex Proudfoot, Jamie Stephenson, Stuart Hudson, Lee Potter Cavanagh, Murray Drysdale and Kevin Griffin took their turns behind the bar.
Everyone acquitted themselves admirably (despite a bout of near-fatal dry ice exposure for judge Dave Broom) and the score sheets showed less than 15 points separating first and last places at the end of the day.
In what is becoming his trademark sadistic manner, Appleton Estate brand manager, Nick Worthington, kept the competitors on the edges of their seats until after dinner before announcing the cut.
But finally we had to say goodbye to Alex Proudfoot, Jamie Stephenson, Joshua Reynolds and Stuart Hudson – well played chaps, it was a really close-run thing and we look forward to seeing you compete again next year.
Final day two
The second day of the Appleton Estate Bartender Challenge UK final was all about the consumer, with the London Docklands Museum playing host to a tasting and voting session that would put the finalist’s drinks under some real-world scrutiny.
Each competitor was given a bar and shelves to decorate in their theme, along with a large screen TV looping a video of them competing the day before.
The bars were adored with all sorts of rum related memorabilia from wooden ships to maps, a Jamaican flag to treasure chests and of course pride of place on each bar was given to the punch bowl.
Guests surrounded each of the bars trying the punch and signature serve offering whilst listening to the patter from each bartender as they described their vision and the drinks the were trying.
Groups of punters were to be seen huddled, drinks in hand, discussing, and in some cases arguing the merits of each bar.
At the end of the event, the voting cards were collected, counted and added to the previous day’s scores and the Appleton Entourage decamped to the Boisdale for more Mai Tais, and the results.
Again Nick demonstrated Simon Cowellian levels of sadism, and kept the competitors and crowd waiting for what seemed like an age before taking to the stage and announcing the winner.
The tension was further raised by the traditional, lengthy, Jamie Mac public address, before, finally, Richard Tring was declared the winner. He will now go on to the global final in Jamaica as the UK’s Appleton Estate Bartender Challenge UK Champion.
Well done to Richard for a consistently excellent display, both in the regional heat and on both days of the UK final. We wish you the very best of luck in Jamaica.
Richard Tring’s winning drinks
The Bristol Connection (original cocktail)
- 50ml Appleton Estate VX
- 15ml Amer Picon
- 10ml Gloucestershire shrub
- 2 Dash orange bitters
- Grapefruit twist garnish
- Served in a coupe glass
- 30ml Grapefruit sherbet
- 10ml Fino
- 10ml Velvet falernum
- 30ml Appleton Estate VX
- 30ml Prosecco
- Grapefruit slice, mint sprig, fresh cherry garnish
- Dusting of allspice
- Punch goblet