On a balmy Saturday in sun-drenched Ibiza five bartenders bravely clambered aboard a sailing yacht rocking gently on the azure Mediterranean.
They were at the last stages of a competition which had taken them from cities around the UK to the famed party island, all leading towards this very moment where they would flex their bartending skills and create a Sauvelle vodka cocktail perfect to enjoy aboard a yacht in the summer.
We’d touched down in Ibiza just two days before, staggering out into the sunshine after a 6am flight took us from a decidedly grey London to this mecca of Spanish hedonism. The final five included Kirsty Taylor from District House, Liverpool, Dean Shury of Chiltern Firehouse, London, Kaiko Tulloch from Lucky Liquor in Edinburgh, Luiza Busica from Red Grill House, Guernsey, and Riccardo Russo of Quaglinos, London.
After a quick airport selfie we were off to the villa, guided by brand manager Chris Amey, who had curated a packed schedule for us of drinking vodka, lazing in the sunshine, dining out, and of course the two rounds of the competition.
Despite Chris continually pointing out the prize was the trip to Ibiza, and everyone was a winner, all five bartenders where clearly anxious for the ultimate prize of working with Sauvelle part-time across five countries over the next year. But we hit a pause on that ambition for the first day as we went to check out the Ibiza highlife at Ocean Beach.
Daytime clubbing doesn’t exactly work in the UK but somehow the concept fits right into Ibiza where the day clubs rake in the euros selling bottle service, sunshine and pools. The only difference is attire – bring your statement one piece, glitter or outrageously patterned swinging trunks to fit in.
With the Sauvelle vodka flowing (served long with tonic and a vanilla pod proved the most refreshing) the group got to know each other, as the boys all opted for a nap in the shade while the girls jumped into the hot tub, vodka in hand.
That evening, once we’d been thoroughly converted to the Ibiza lifestyle of daytime clubbing, we had a Spanish supper prepared by chefs in our own villa and were joined by one of the brand owners, Antoine Gravouil. Those still awake (the boys’ option of a shady nap over hot tub debauchery proved fruitful) then headed to Pikes, one of the famed Ibiza nightclubs. Suffice to say there were stories to tell in the morning, especially after Dean and Chris took it upon themselves to introduce Sauvelle vodka to the entire club.
Day two saw the beginning of the competition as we headed for the island’s STK, overlooking the luxurious marina at Ibiza Town.
Here the competitors faced three rounds of challenging tasks, beginning with a Sauvelle Martini twist, moving on to an open bar round followed by an intense speed challenge of a Cosmopolitan, a Moscow Mule and a Sauvelle Vodka & Tonic. With a backdrop of Ibiza’s rich blue waters and open sky they were reminded of the style of drinks they were to create – perfect to enjoy on the island. Judging them was Chris Amey from Sauvelle, Joao Serio, the bar manager at STK, and BarlifeUK.
Riccardo kicked proceedings off with tasty Martini brought alive with chocolate bitters before presenting us with a floral and long cocktail for his open bar challenge. His speed round also showed his bartending prowess, creating the only balanced Cosmo of the day.
Luiza’s Martini was equally excellent, opting for a more citrus aroma, while her open bar challenge utilised orange juice and spices, twisting the classic Harvey Wallbanger. She placed a close second for the fastest speed round and engaged the judges with her elegant style of mixing drinks.
Dean was the most relaxed competitor of the day, taking his time to explain his choices and mixing a mean Martini. His open bar serve was a delicious and refreshing spritz-style drink with a healthy dose of Sauvelle while his speed challenge resulted in a seriously good Moscow Mule.
Winning the day however was Kirsty, whose hibiscus themed Martini suited Ibiza perfectly, as did her floral open bar round cocktail. She also managed to smash out the three drinks in the speed round in 1 minutes and 40 seconds. Kaiko was unfortunately taken ill and unable to compete.
With an idea of how the competition was shaping up, but with everything to play for, we retired to the villa to change for dinner and headed into Ibiza town. Traversing the narrow cobbled streets we arrived at our destination – Bar 1805, and were joined by Sauvelle’s other owner Olivier Carsoule. The small French-styled bistro lavished us with mussels, steak and frites while we supped on a Sauvelle sangria and rosé wine.
A pit stop in Paradise Lost for tiki cocktails, and we were on the way to one of Ibiza’s most exclusive night clubs – Lío. Magnums of vodka, enormous yachts moored out front, and scantily-clad dancers in sequins and feathers were just the tip of the iceberg here. However, with the final of the competition the next day, bed called and we said goodnight to the Ibiza highlife for the last time.
Which brings us neatly back to a yacht, five bartenders, and the azure water of Ibiza. Early the next morning we drove to the marina and set off in a Sauvelle-decked out luxurious yacht. After a trip along the coast we moored off Cala Comte beach and, bobbing with the waves, set up for the final.
Today’s task was relatively easier than the previous day, the competitors simply had to present the cocktail which they had created for the UK heats – their Sauvelle Yacht Serve. Unfortunately the motion of the sea made that challenge a lot harder for some, yet all managed to battle through.
First up was Riccardo’s Capri-cious featuring Sauvelle vodka, cantalupe melon puree, aperol, fresh lime juice, sugar, salt and white pepper. The drink was balanced and tasty, playing off fresh summer tastes while the salt and pepper brought those rich melon flavours to the foreground.
Next Kaiko took to the decking to showcase her Sauvelle Vague using Sauvelle vodka, French white wine, elderflower cordial and celery bitters. Served over ice it was a light and harmonious cocktail which has to win most elegant of the day in her beautiful glassware with the drink’s translucent colouring allowing the sunshine to pour through the glass.
Kirsty marked the middle of the competition with her Belle Benirras, a delightful serve of Sauvelle vodka, a champagne and almond cordial, Manzana Verde, fresh lemon juice and Hierbas. Presented over crushed ice with a mint, apple and cherry garnish, this cocktail was incredible fresh and aromatic, drawing as inspiration the wild beauty of Ibiza with Sauvelle’s own story. Kirsty added a final touch of serving the drink in a box filled with treasures she had collected from previous Ibiza trips.
Up next we had Luiza who wove her drink around the story of two famous lovers, Napolean and his Josephine. She perfectly quoted a heartfelt letter Napolean wrote Josephine, uttering of kisses and love, and she put together her cocktail Golden Rose featuring Sauvelle vodka, St Germain Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, vanilla syrup and rose blossom water. Luiza had a beautiful and engaging presentation style which won over the judges.
Up last was Dean who presented his La Riviera aperitif-style drink combining Sauvelle vodka with Byrhh, cassis, fresh lemon juice and vanilla soda water.
The drink was outstanding, really honing in on the brief to create a yacht serve which was easily made on a bobbing boat and one which was light and showcased Sauvelle. Served with Mediterranean olives the savoury saltiness brought a new expression to the drink, making it moreish and irresistible. Dean’s calm presentation and easy manner made the judges’ job even easier.
After adding the scores and a deliberation below deck it was clear Dean would be walking away with the prize and the opportunity to work with Sauvelle over the coming months as the brand grows from strength to strength.
That said, BarlifeUK was utterly delighted to be presented with so many fantastic serves from such capable bartenders – watch out for their names, no doubt we’ll be hearing more from Luiza, Kirsty, Kaiko and Riccardo as they progress in their promising careers – they certainly made the trip a special one to be a part of. Even if we did nearly miss the flight home.
Dean’s wining serve – La Riviera
45ml Sauvelle Vodka
30ml Byrhh aperitif
10 ml Casis
7.5ml Lemon juice
Half a vanilla pod
Stirred/ built in aperitif glass . Lemon flicks & Nasturtium flower to garnish.