The G’Vine Gin Connoisseurs Program (GCP) Finals in Cognac is one of the toughest competition finals in the world and fittingly the heats to get there are no walk in park either.
There were two spots available at the global finals so the UK held two heats at Epernay in Manchester and Paramount in London. The selected finalists had a whole day of challenges ahead of them but before that all got underway they were lulled into a false sense of security with a couple of relaxing G’Vine & Tonics.
This year’s GCP is based around the opportunity of grooming the winner into the modern brand ambassador (alongside plenty of cash, amazing travel, fancy trophy and buckets of kudos) and the first session of the day was G’Vine’s very own Jamie Walker explaining the life of this highly coveted job role. Now I mentioned that it was a tough day and perhaps you’re thinking that listening to someone talk for an hour isn’t that tough, however any of you who have met Jamie will know just how tough listening to him can be!!
The afternoon saw the start of the real work with a written test to discover the contestants gin knowledge. Written test can be fiendish beasts and when the test in question has been compiled by non-other than Philip Duff (the man behind the GCP concept) you know it is going to be a two headed Minotaur of a quiz.
The London finalists were given an extra unexpected element to the day when a fire alarm forced us to evacuate the bar, not normally an issue, but as the Paramount is on the 31st floor it did lead to more exercise than most of us were used to before midday on a Monday (or indeed any day).
The main aspect of the days competition came in the evenings in a task designed to prepare the competitors for the finale of the finals week. Each year following a week of challenges each of the finalists is tasked with creating a cocktail and display to impress the invited guests of Cognac at the G’Vine Summer Ball.
We weren’t in Cognac and in wasn’t summer (in actual fact in Manchester it had been snowing all day) however each competitor was given a table, plenty of G’Vine and any other props they had brought to decorate their area. At 7pm the doors were opened and an invited group of Manchester and London’s most concerning consumers (and Andrew Nutter) flowed in to try each of the cocktails on offer and ultimately vote for their favourite creation.
Before the riffraff were allowed in the ‘expert’ judging panel went from table to table to try the drinks and hear from the competitors where their inspiration and ideas had come from. The two panels consisted of BarLifeUK, last years two UK representatives Iain McPherson from Voodoo Rooms and Pawel Rolka from Coq d’Argent, Jamie Walker, Dave Marsland, Salvatore Calabrese, Rebecca Seal of Sunday Brunch fame and Emma ‘Gin Monkey’ Stokes plus others.
After an hour of pumping out their cocktails the competitors retired to the bar to have a drink or two whilst the scores of the three rounds were compiled and, with the help of Paul’s fingers and toes, totted up.
Only one winner from each heat would be spending a week in Cognac with the other finalists from around the world as well as Philip Duff, gaz ‘he’s 61 you know’ regan, Angus Winchester, Shawn Soole and Dale DeGroff. After the amount of effort that had been put in however it was only fair that 2nd and 3rd should also be rewarded.
In 3rd place with a trophy and case of G’Vine for their efforts were Alex Jones from Apotheca in Manchester and Sebastian Kasyna from Coq d’Argent in London. In 2nd place with a slightly bigger trophy and two cases came Amir Javaid from Kosmonaut in Manchester and Andreas Tsanos of Spirit Level, Baku in London.
The winners however, and the ones representing the UK in Cognac later in the year, were Jamie Jones of No Fixed Abode in Manchester and Hannah Lanfear of Boisdale in London. The UK has never won the G’Vine GCP Finals but I have a sneaky suspicion this might be our year.
Jamie is on a bit of a competition role at the moment and is certainly not short of charm (or facial hair) to wow the guest at the final ball, with the amount of events he works with The Liquorists I can see him nailing the speed round as well. Hannah’s drink was a corker (gin and Coco Real? – hell yes) which importantly was a hit with the punters as well as the judges and reaching the finals of the Bartender Mastermind comp this year shows that the written test should be a strength for her.
The two winning drinks are below for you to have a try of if you should so wish.
A big thank you to our hosts at Epernay and Paramount, all the competitors for putting in so much effort, our fellow judges for the tough job of drinking whilst standing up and of course the G’Vine family for putting it all together.
BarLifeUK will be at the Global Finals bringing you all the news as it happens and hopefully announcing the first UK winner. In fact my only worry is whether Jamie will make it back to Manchester after the finals…. as if his table tennis skills are anything to go by he’s rubbish at returning….. Boom!
Jamie Jones – 1st Place Manchester
La Floraison d’etre
50ml G’Vine Floraison
15ml St Germain
10ml extra virgin olive oil
5ml Martini Extra Dry
10 crushed pink peppercorns
1 egg white
25ml lemon juice
2 spoons white caster sugar
Shaken with 2 ice cubes Ramos style until they have dissolved. Serve in chilled glass, spritz with homemade perfume and serve with macaroons.
Hannah Lanfear – 1st Place London
40ml G’Vine Nouaison
12.5ml fresh lemon juice
12.5ml sugar syrup (1:1)
35ml fresh grapefruit
15ml Coco Real
1 dash Bob’s Abbott’s Bitters
Shake and serve straight up in a coupette with a freeze dried rose petal for garnish.