Five finalists present cocktails inspired by the spirit of adventure
I was a little nervous about this competition, because I wondered if the nature of the prize (skydiving) might dissuade bartenders from entering. However, given that the theme of the comp was ‘the spirit of adventure’, this would seem to be exactly the point. And I needn’t have worried, it turns out there are plenty of bartenders in the UK who would like to experience terminal velocity.
Paper judging of the entries selected a field of finalists, who were invited to converge on Gin Tonica Bar, at the Distillery, in Notting Hill. It was a beautiful Summer’s day, and Gin Tonica is just about the perfect competition venue, blessed as it is with lots of light and access to a pretty excellent tapas kitchen that kept blood-alcohol levels in check.
Competition host Sophie Bratt got proceedings underway with enthusiasm, despite having a knackered back (we hope you get well soon). She introduced the judging panel, which comprised of brand ambassador Jamie Kimber, brand owner Michael Claessens, Emma ‘Gin Monkey’ Stokes, and myself. Competitors were told they had a generous ten minutes to perform, and the comp then kicked off.
The overriding theme of the competitors’ presentations was exploration, with recipes drawing inspiration from parts of the world, and exotic ingredients. I was somewhat surprised that aviation didn’t have more of a showing, but I suppose kerosene and sick bags are not the best foundations for a cocktail.
David McLean, newly installed at Monteith’s of Edinburgh, put in a strong showing with his ‘Back to the Future’ drink, which used salted Vermouth to produce a very interesting, tasty cocktail.
Aiste Valiukaite of Native, in Aberdeen, also nailed it. Her ‘French Bouquet’ cocktail was inspired by her time wandering around the streets of Paris, and employed lemon balm as an ingredient and garnish, which smelled beautiful.
However, in the end it was Piotr Jedrzejewski of Rivington Bar & Grill in Shoreditch who won the comp, and secured for himself a day of skydiving with Willem Barentsz Gin’s owner, Michael Claessens.
We must say thank you very much to everyone who competed, and to the staff at Gin Tonica who looked after us so well, and we hope Piotr has a fantastic day at the airfield.
The winning drink
The Little Dove, by Piotr Jedrzejewski.
35ml Willem Barentsz Gin
35ml Homemade lime & eucalyptus cordial
15ml Quintinye Vermouth Royale Blanc
2 Drops VOC bitters (house bitters inspired by the spice trade )
Dash of soda water
Cocktail: Combine all ingredients apart from soda in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake well. Strain into a large highball glass over fresh ice. Top with soda.
Garnish: eucalyptus leaves on bamboo stick imitating a sail, lime peel and pink peppercorns
Cordial: Zest 6 limes and set zest aside. Squeeze 150ml of lime juice, pour into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiled, leave to cool for 3 to 5 minutes and add lime zest. Add 10 large eucalyptus leaves and 100g of caster sugar. Stir well to dissolve sugar and set aside to cool completely. Strain and refrigerate until needed – keeps in the fridge for about 3 months.