Two very close London heats send winners through to the Hayman’s Gin True Taste final
BarLifeUK has been a cocktail competition hub for almost ten years now, and as a result of this experience we can generally tell in advance if a comp will do well. When Hayman’s Gin ambassador Tim Homewood approached us with the True Taste competition, we knew immediately that it would generate a ton of entries, and that the standard would be very high.
We were able to make this prediction on account of the competition’s prize – a five day distilling apprenticeship under master distiller Christopher Hayman, and the chance to create a batch of personal, limited run gin.
As nice as a trip to Tales of the Cocktail or Bar Convent Berlin may be, competitions that offer prizes which involve real learning and development attract serious, committed competitors. So we were unsurprised that the True Taste comp proved to be one of the most popular of the year, to the extent that paper-judging the entries down to a manageable number of competitors for regional heats was very difficult.
The five regional heats began last week, kicking off with two in London, with Leeds, Bath, and Edinburgh to follow. The winner of each heat will go through to a grand final at the Hayman’s Gin distillery, where the ultimate winner will be decided. Each heat consists of two challenges – presentation of the signature cocktail that was submitted as an entry to the competition, and a mystery box round.
London Heat 1: 29th May, The Bloomsbury. Judges: Xavier Landais (Caprice Holdings), Tim Homewood (Hayman’s Gin), Andy Ives (BarLifeUK)
The Bloomsbury is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon, and BarLifeUK are particularly keen on their club sandwiches, which are bad for you and delicious.
This ambience and the fact that the True Taste competition allots ten minutes for each competitor made for a nicely relaxed atmosphere. Every drink in the first round was tasty and well balanced, so it was the ‘presentation’ and ‘drink appearance’ categories that pushed a few competitors slightly ahead of the field.
As is often the case, the mystery box round unsettled some competitors and for them ten minutes suddenly felt like ten seconds. The fact that the rules stated a minimum of two ingredients from the mystery box had to be used seemed not to register with some of the competitors, who panicked a little and used more or all of the mystery ingredients, resulting in a few iffy drinks.
However one bartender nailed both his signature round and the mystery box drink, and was a unanimous winner for the three judges.
Winner: Jordan Sweeney – The Wigmore at The Langham
Signature Drink: Keep off the Grass
35ml Hayman’s London Dry Gin
25ml Pea-pod juice
15ml Grass tincture
10ml Lemon juice
10ml Mint leaf sugar syrup
All shaken and topped with with English sparkling wine in a gold-leaf sprinkled champagne flute.
Mystery box drink: Fig’et About It
40ml Hayman’s London Dry
20ml Lemon juice
15ml Pomegranate syrup
One chopped Fig
Shake and strain onto cubed ice. Top with 25ml Fursty Ferret ale. Quick stir and garnish with a fig wheel.
London Heat 2: 30th May, London Cocktail Club. Judges: James Hopkins (LCC), Tim Homewood (Hayman’s Gin), Andy Ives (BarLifeUK)
LCC Goodge Street is a great competition venue, the lighting is nice for photos and in quiet moments between competitors, the judges can entertain themselves by reading the graffiti written inside the dangling lampshades. Their music playlists are awesome too.
The standard of signature drinks at this heat was very high, however two bartenders served absolutely fantastic cocktails that were a level above the rest of the field. It would have been a shame if a nightmare mystery box round had put either of these bartenders out of the race, as one of their drinks should really have gone through to the final.
Happily, both competitors did well in the second round, and eventual winner Mattia Lufrano served up one of the best mystery box drinks BarLifeUK have had the pleasure of judging.
Winner: Mattia Lufrano – Chiltern Firehouse
Signature Drink: Puss and mew
40ml Hayman’s London Dry
25ml Ginger and lemongrass wine
15ml Liquorice syrup
20ml Chickpea and squid ink water
Dry shake and hard shake. Serve in a coupette. Garnish with a big ball of ice and lime flakes.
Mystery box drink: Crackon
Hayman’s London Dry
Ginger and Rhubarb syrup
Dry shake then hard shake. Serve in a coupette, with an orange strip pinned around the stem.
Thanks to everyone who entered the Hayman’s Gin True Taste comp, and congratulations to Jordan and Mattia, we look forward to seeing both of you at the final. Reports from the other regional heats will be brought to you as they happen.