The heats of the Four Pillars Australian (Gin) Open kicked off in Bristol as we began the search for the first two bartenders to compete in the UK final.
Ever since we heard about the plans for the Four Pillars comp from UK Brand Ambassador Joe Worthington we knew we were going to be in for a treat. Sure enough entry numbers were huge as were the quality of the entries.
One of the reasons we knew it was going to be a big one was the rather exceptional prize:
- 8 Finalists each get a Negroni fuelled private shopping experience at Selfridges with £250 spending money
- 2 Winners get trip to Australia where they will:
- get to make and bottle their own gin
- night out round Melbourne’s best bars
- night out round Sydney’s top bars
- tickets to the Australian Bar Awards
Not bad eh? Wish you’d entered now? Well you would have to have been on your absolute top form to stand a chance at the Bristol Heat.
Two minutes into the first competitor’s, Gisellia Moore from Hyde & Co, presentation it was obvious that it was going to be a great afternoon. The judging panel of BarLifeUK, Joe and Bristol’s own Rich ‘The Fluffer’ Tring were in for an enjoyable few hours.
As competitor after competitor stepped in front of the impressive stained glass window that forms the backdrop to the bar upstairs at Milk Thistle we were treated to impressive drinks and genuinely interesting and entertaining chat.
Gisellia led the way getting the crowd involved with a fantastic presentation and introducing one of the ingredients of the day, in the form of marmalade, in one of her two serves, how ever it was her second serve which impressed most with a perfectly judged amount of heat from birds eye chillies.
As Gisellia showed we had a superb variety of serves thanks to each bartender having to make the judges two drinks, one using Rare Dry and one using either Navy Strength or Spiced Negroni. Harry Cosmo from HMSS certainly pushed out the boat with a twist on the Angle Face cocktail (that is his mum’s nickname for him after all) combining tropical flavours you don’t usually associate with gin, but certainly do with Australia.
No-one however had better Oz roots than Milk Thistles own Alex Godfrey seeing as he is, well, Australian. He put up a hell of fight to get a free trip back home with one of, if not the, drink of the day for us with a spritz style serve with Somerset cider cordial and lemongrass and ginger blanco vermouth.
Alex Mills from Lab 22 in Cardiff and Lauren Davy from Hockney Arts Club in Nottingham both turned to the principles of the brand for inspiration. Alex looked at the ‘thriftiness’ of the brand and the usage of as many of the waste products as possible which inspired his first serve. Lauren’s presentation was inspired by the brands 4 Pillars (Stills, Water, Botanicals, Love).
Also inspired by the 4 Pillars of the brand was Toby Heap from the Edgbaston in Birmingham however he turned it to the 4 Pillars of bartending. With two great drinks plus a funny and engaging presentation Toby put himself firmly in the mix.
It is a great marker of how enjoyable a comp has been when it gets to the end and you are surprised you are done. With such a strong heat the worry was that the judges deliberation would be the painful part. However on this occasion the judges were in firm agreement and two competitors had managed to stick their necks ahead of the very strong field.
Tom Godfrey from Red Light created two great drinks including one of the best Red Snapper twists I have ever had, especially when enjoyed with a lime, chilli and coriander caviar ball. His story linking together his drinks was exceptionally well judged and kept the crowd involved, we look forward to seeing what else Cousin Chris got up on his Australian adventure in the final.
Joining Tom at the final in London during Imbibe Live is Dan Bovey from Hyde & Co. With a Peter Andre soundtrack and ingredients with flavour notes including ‘luscious fruity bangers’ his linking of Modern Australia, Four Pillars and Bristol across his two drinks was exceptionally well done. His drinks were, as we have come to expect from Dan over the years, exceptionally approachable and enjoyable.
It was an amazing afternoon and huge thanks to Alex and the Milk Thistle team for hosting us, all of the competitors and supporters for getting involved and of course to Four Pillars and Love Drinks for coming up with such a great comp.
London is next on the tour and if Bristol is any kind of marker in the Bondi Beach sand then we are in for a treat.
Dan Bovey, Hyde & Co, Bristol
No Wine, No Worries!
40ml Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin
25ml Pampelle Liqueur
15ml blood orange and thyme sherbet
55ml Sicilian lemon tonic
3 dashes citric acid
Shake all ingredients except tonic and double strain into a wine glass over block ice, top with tonic and stir once to combine. Garnish with blood orange zest and thyme pegged to the rim of the glass.
Shipshape and Bristol Fashioned
40ml Cocoa butter washed Navy Strength Four Pillars Gin
20ml banana infused lustau blanco
15ml Antica Formula
10ml 1:1 whey sugar syrup
4 dashes absinthe
4 dashes vintners acid blend
Stir and strain into an old fashioned over block ice and garnish with a spray of pandan leaf essence and edible flowers.
Tom Godfrey, Red Light, Bristol
Brunch in Yarra
40ml Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin
75ml Tomato Juice
7.5ml Fino Sherry
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, stir over ice for 15 seconds and serve in a chilled Nick & Nora Glass. Garnish With Lime Caviar.
200ml Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin
150ml Aperitif Blend
150ml Lemon and Lime Cordial
250ml Mineral Water
Carbonate ingredients, bottle and label, chill. Serve in chilled champagne glasses in 150ml serves.