Week two of the Appleton Estate Bartender Challenge heats took place in Bristol and Leeds
It was another early Monday morning start for the third Appleton Estate Bartender Challenge (AEBC) heat, as the judges and competitors converged on Goldbrick House at 10:30am.
Consequently, there were some bleary eyes on both sides of the bar as proceedings got under way for the first set of challenge – the Classic Cocktail round – during which each competitor drew one rum and one non-rum classic at random from a list created by previous AEBC winner, Richard Tring.
Next came the speed and knowledge round, which tasked the competitors with making three classic Mai Tais in five minutes, while answering three quick-fire questions about the Appleton Estate brand.
This round proved quite pivotal in the overall competition, because both of the eventual winners scored highly here, giving them a leg up when the total points were calculated. There’s no substitute for a bit of preparation when it comes to the brand knowledge section of a cocktail competition.
The third and final round saw the bartenders make the signature drink they had submitted as an entry to the AEBC. More than any other city, Bristol has a ‘type’ of drink – strong, dark and stirred. There was plenty of this in evidence, a particularly tasty example belonging to Chelsie Bailey, who must have an almost perfect competition record, as she seems to win everything she enters at the moment.
However, the second winner was out-of-towner Luiza Andreea, hailing from St. Peter Port bar in Guernsey, whose drink was a decidedly un-Bristol homage to Tiki.
Both Chelsie and Andreea also nailed the storytelling element of their presentations, by having perfectly structured stories that flowed nicely as they made their drinks.
This, combined with great knowledge and classics scores made the judging uncharacteristically simple, as they were both clear winners and earned places in the final, taking place in October.
Bristol Qualifiers and Their Drinks
Chelsie Bailey – Red Light, Bristol: Black River
50ml Appleton 12YO
25ml Smoked Orange Falernum
Stir all ingredients, serve over ice in a rocks glass. Orange zest garnish.
Luiza Andreea, St. Peter Port, Guernsey: Peace in the World
50ml Appleton Special 12 years
25ml Stones Green Ginger wine
Fresh muddled cucumber
25ml fresh lime juice
Dash of homemade kiwi shrub
Peel the cucumber and muddle it in the Collins glass. Shake and strain into the chosen glass. Garnish with a large cucumber slice.
The Leeds Heat
After enjoying a few post-competition drinks in a very sunny and lovely Bristol, the judges jumped on a train and headed North, for the Leeds heat taking place the following morning.
Having bestowed some Appleton 8YO on our lucky table neighbour, and taught Samantha Burke how to play Shit Head (who doesn’t know how to play Shit Head?), there was time for a calm and well behaved drink in Mojo before hitting the sack for another 10:30 start.
There were a few no-shows at the Leeds heat – tsk tsk, Northern bartenders – but that did give us time to enjoy some of Black Swan’s excellent pizza, which was very welcome after the calm and well behaved drink we’d had at Mojo the night before.
The rounds followed the same format, with random classics up first, followed by speed and knowledge and finally, the signature round.
At this point, before announcing the winners, I’d like to give Dale Hughs of Suburbs, Chester, an honourable mention. His drink was great, and the amount of effort and research he put into his presentation and storytelling was second to none. However, a brain fart pushed a couple of classic recipes out of his head, which effectively put him out of the running, which was shame because his chat was excellent.
Also delivering good chat, tasty drinks and, crucially, good classic and brand knowledge, were Joe Wild and Elliot Oxley, who both go through to the final in London, which after two days of competition, will send the two ultimate winners on an epic rip to Jamaica. We’ll see you both in London in a couple of weeks.