After the first two heats in London it was time to get out on the road with Leeds our first stop.
One of our favourite bars in Australia is Mike Enright’s The Barber Shop in Sydney. As the name suggests you have to walk through a barber’s to get in, Domino Club in Leeds has the same entry system. However despite being in desperate need of a haircut, there was work to be done in the form of judging a room full of bartenders.
After a quick briefing from Hayman’s Brand Ambassador Tim Homewood, who was judging with BarLifeUK and industry legend Tom Proud, we were off and it didn’t take long to see the amount of effort the competitors had put in.
First up was Shanelle Bateman from Epicurious who’s VE Day inspired drink came with an accompanying soundtrack. It was a look back at the importance of women during the war and also of women in the story of Hayman’s. The fantastic presentation was backed up with a delicious, refreshing drink full of summery ingredients.
It was no surprise that so much effort had been put into the drinks when you consider the prize up for grabs. The overall winner will receive a five day distilling apprenticeship under master distiller Christopher Hayman and the chance to create their own limited edition version of Hayman’s Gin.
Josh May from Blind Tyger combined the history of British gin with the history of tonic in a fascinating presentation. The tonic was matched with Jasmin Tea, rhubarb and Cocchi Americanno in a great looking serve which allowed the Hayman’s to shine.
Tim comes across as a nice guy but his evil streak was on show with round two, the dreaded mystery box round. As in the first round each competitor had 10 minutes to create their drink however this time the clock started the moment they opened the bag. As soon as the contents of the first bag were revealed we knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
Jordan Crulley, also of Blind Tyger, didn’t shy away from the challenging ingredients in his bag and decided to pick the toasted sesame oil, coconut water, coriander and ground cinnamon along with a couple of pantry items (although he did, probably wisely, shy away from the Marshmallow Fluff). The resulting drink was only let down by a slightly heavy hand with the sesame oil.
We were so impressed with Smoke Stack’s Josh Howley and his drink he got a bottle of Hayman’s at the end of the day. Finding Blue WKD in your mystery bag would, rightly, put most people off but Josh managed to balance it with dry vermouth before adding it to Hayman’s, apricot jam and lemon juice to create a genuinely lovely drink.
However there was one competitor who shone across both rounds to take the win. Dan Smithson from Below Stairs was entering his first competition in 10 years but didn’t show any rusty skills.
His first drink celebrated the first motion picture, which was filmed in Leeds. Dan visited the park where is was filmed with a foraging friend and found a Douglas Fir Tree. This inspired the drink and also provided the backbone of the flavours in a truly unusual but very enjoyable cocktail.
From the mystery bag he took 3 ingredients, red wine vinegar, almond milk and pecan butter. The resulting drink was surprisingly tasty, and Dan himself wasn’t the only competitor to taste the mix of ingredients he had put together and surprise himself.
It was a fantastic day and Leeds certainly did themselves very proud with not only their drinks, but across the board we were hugely impressed by the presentations and the effort that had gone into them.
A big thanks to all the competitors and those that came to support, as well as Domino Club for their excellent hospitality. Next up is Bath and we are looking forward to the panicked expressions during the mystery box round already.
Winner – Dan Smithson, Below Stairs, Leeds
- 40ml Haymans London Dry gin
- 20ml Spent Coffee Cocchi
- 20ml Douglas Fir tincture
- 5ml Douglas Fir sap syrup
Build in Bodega rocks glass and stirred with a an ice block.