Two cities produced five more finalists for the, exceptionally tough looking, El Dorado Swizzle final in September and the chance to win a trip to Guyana.
It appears that weather forecasters across the country didn’t pick up on it, but there is definitely no coincidence that this latest heat wave coincided directly with the heats of this year’s El Dorado Swizzle Competition.
As we arrived at Hula Bar in Manchester the pavement outside was actually melting and once the bartenders turned up all bleary-eyed and semi-translucent it seemed that holding the heat in a basement bar was a very good move indeed.
With punch being dished out the competitors started on the first challenge of the day, and a new addition to this years comp, a blind tasting of three of the range. All they had to do was tell us which one was which expression of El Dorado. Easy right. Apparently not. Even with this rum loving crowd only one person got all three right.
The main event was kicked off by Euan Halliday from Sygn in Edinburgh who produced one of my favourite serves of the day with his drink being served up in a spray painted paper cup and a side order of lovely smelling popcorn. I say lovely smelling because if your fellow judges are the multi-award winning Stefanie Holt from El Dorado and the Liars Club’s Lyndon Higginson you have to move really quickly if you want to get any food offered up, I didn’t.
As the afternoon progressed we were treated to swizzles served in all manner of glassware, including not one but two giant skulls, drinks set on fire, an Indiana Jones inspired story, garnishes of all shapes and sizes, the most surprising being a rubber duck and a drink being swizzled using a drill.
We have come to expect a lot from Northern heats of competitions, especially rum based ones, and it came as no surprise that once the judging had been done it was three, not the usual two, bartenders going through to the final.
These were (in no particular order) Tim Laferla from Luck, Lust, Liquor and Burn who produced a great swizzle featuring one of the best shrubs we’ve had in a while and a serve featuring boats, cards and stripy straws.
Massimo Zitti of The Liquorists produced a swizzle superbly balancing 3 of the El Dorado range and served very elegantly in a rather pretty etched 17th century tankard. Brodie Meah from Liars Club rounded out the top three with the second successful drink of these heats to feature Spruce Beer and a fantastic presentation based around an advertising campaign he’d invented all served with El Dorado 12 year old hair gel!
The following day, with only a slightly fuzzy head after a night out in Manchester, saw the Swizzle Train head to Oxford and our host bar Raoul’s. Before long the great and good from the South East of the country were filling up the bar and the vast array of ingredients were laid out on tables all around us.
Joining BarLifeUK and Stef on the judging panel for this heat was industry icon and a man that has blended his own rum, Nick Wykes. We were ready, they were ready, we were off.
This bunch of bartenders certainly had no intention of being out done in the presentation stakes by the other heats and Mike from Birmingham’s Island Bar quickly proved that point. His entry was swizzled in a child’s beach bucket with a foam top sprayed blue and garnished with some homemade El Dorado chocolates.
As the other competitors got behind their swizzle sticks we were treated to bowtie garnishes, homemade rum cake, marmalade branded serving mugs, vannila pod straws, the ‘long-armed’ swizzle and even some jelly and ice-pops.
A couple of London bartenders came up to Oxford to try their luck against these young upstarts in the form of Paul ‘Will’ William and Double Barrel Dan both from Trailer Happiness. Will brought with him the Trailer Swizzle Stick, another power tool affair, and Dan unleashed the, patent pending, Wolverine Swizzle technique. Dan also produced one of the most entertaining serves I have seen in a competition for a long time in the form of an Um Bongo inspired swizzle (Rum Bungo!!) with a foam and garnish so over the top it had to be seen to be believed.
Even the appearance of two of London’s finest wasn’t enough to put off the locals however with Raoul’s very own Scott Harrison getting through with his superbly presented royal navy inspired Jolly Jacks Juice complete with homemade flags and a special gill jigger.
Joining him in the grand final is Dan Bovey, proving that Sahara Bar in Reading may now be B@1 in Reading but the quality of the drinks hasn’t diminished with a fantastically balanced rhubarb and ginger jam inspired creation.
Here at BarLifeUK we have spent the last 3 years telling anyone that will listen about the quality of the drinks outside London in the likes of Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, Edinburgh and Liverpool. What has become obvious recently is that Reading and Oxford are more than ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with these cities.
The final of the El Dorado Swizzle comp will be taking place in London at the beginning of September. We will be letting you know exactly when and where soon and I strongly suggest you come down and watch. Not only will you get to drink some lovely El Dorado punch but you will see a hell of a competition take place.
Massimo Zitti – The Liquorists, Manchester
City of Gold
- 35ml El Dorado 3yo
- 25ml El Dorado 8yo
- 15ml Eldorado 12yo
- 50ml homemade rhubarb and cloves juice infused lavender honey
- 50ml homemade lime, mint and rose petal cordial
- 20ml “Golden Syrup”
- 6 dashes Spiced Cherry Bitters from Devil’s Club
Swizzled in a 17thCentury Navy Tankard and serve with a trunk full of gold, red rose and half frozen lime with chamomile and lavender blossom.
Brodie Meah – Liars Club, Manchester
Spruce Ya Self Up Swizzle
- 30ml El Dorado 5yo
- 30ml El Dorado 12yo
- 25ml lemon juice
- 20ml Demerara orgeat
- 25ml spruce beer
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Swizzled and garnished with orange zest – Eldorado 12 hair gel, cologne & advert
Tim Laferla – Luck, Lust, Liquor and Burn, Manchester
The Columbus Connection Swizzle
- 50ml El Dorado 5yo
- 50ml blackberry shrub
- 10ml lime juice
- 10ml caramelised Demerara sugar syrup
- 3ml Amaro Montenegro
Scott Harrison – Raoul’s, Oxford
Jolly Jacks Juice
- 71ml (half a gill) El Dorado 12yo
- 75ml old fashioned lemonade
- 25ml beer syrup
- 1 dash teapot bitters
Swizzled in a tankard and garnish with a lemon wheel soaked in earl grey syrup
Dan Bovey – B@1, Reading
Greenheart Screwball Swizzle
- 52.5ml El Dorado 5yo
- 30ml blood orange purée
- 22.5ml lemon juice
- 15ml prosecco sugar syrup
- 2 bar spoons rhubarb and ginger jam
- 3 dashes of Bitter truth orange bitters
Sizzle and garnish with poached rhubarb, grated citrus peel and multi-coloured cocktail cherries.