Appleton Estate Bartender Challenge UK Finalists Announced

The last six weeks have been epic.

Rachel Ramshall-Smith on her way to winning an honourable mention during the Bristol heat

BarLifeUK have travelled the length and breadth of the UK with the Appleton Estate Bartender Challenge, judging heats, drinking Mai Tais and generally immersing ourselves in the country’s various bar communities.

It’s fair to say that everyone takes this competition seriously; it’s one of the ones that bartenders want to win. The regional heats reflected this, and they were pretty rigorous.

Each competitor had to make three drinks: one Vic’s Mai Tai, one classic rum cocktail pulled at random from a hat, and their own original drink, which was to be presented with a full GP breakdown and justification.

But before they even walked behind the bar, competitors also had to complete a written rum test. The combination of the test and the prospect of making an un-rehearsed cocktail from the hat was pretty hardcore, and it foxed a few individuals. As did knowing the correct specs for a Vic’s Mai Tai… We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again:

If you are going to enter a comp, read the specs and make sure you’ve learned everything you need to learn!

What you can't see is that Jamie has his tongue out and socks off in an effort to add the scores

The regional heats were something of a surprise and quite different to any rum comp we’ve judged before. With the notable exception of Bristol (twin-blender-Miami-Vice-twist action, sun lamps and sand boxes for the judges’ feet) there was very little ‘tiki-madness’.

And again, with the notable exception of East London (8, before we lost count, much to a hungover JJ’s chagrin), there were very few ‘shots for the judges’. Is this a sign that rum is growing up? Who knows, although to be honest, we did miss the madness a little.

However as they say, cream (or Coco Lopez) always rises to the top, and eight finalists won their heats and will be going on to the two-day UK final in June (Details on the final will follow shortly).

The UK Finalists

  • London West: Joshua Reynolds, Pollen Street Social
  • Bristol: Richard Tring, Milk Thistle
  • London / South: Alex Proudfoot, Raoul’s Oxford
  • Leeds: Jamie Stephenson, Corridor Manchester
  • London East: Stuart Hudson, Hawksmoor & Lee Potter Cavanagh, Hix
  • Edinburgh: Murray Drysdale, Rick’s & Kevin Griffin, The Raconteur

The Winning Drinks

Joshua Reynold – Queen’s Estate

  • 50ml Appleton VX
  • 20ml Dubonnet Rouge
  • 15ml Benedictine
  • 2 dashes St Elizabeth Allspice Dram

Garnish (Pink Grapefruit Twist, Discarded.) Served – Coupette

Richard Tring – the Bristol Connection

  • 50ml Appleton VX
  • 15ml Amer picon
  • 10ml Cider syrup
  • 2 dash Orange bitters

Stir, serve in a coupette glass with a Grapefruit garnish

Alex Proudfoot – The Karstaway

  • 60ml Appleton VX
  • 25ml Lillet Blanc
  • 10ml Orange shrub (home made)
  • 1 Dash Angostura bitters

Stir and serve over ice. Garnish with lemon twist and ground coriander seeds

Jamie Stephenson – Dreadlock Holiday

  • 60ml Appleton VX
  • 25ml Monin banana puree
  • 25ml Coconut milk
  • 8 Dash Angostura bitters
  • 10ml Monin cinnamon syrup
  • Dash egg white

Shake all ingredients well and strain into a chilled compete. Garnish with banana slices

Stuart Hudson – Cockpit Cocktail

  • 50ml Appleton VX
  • 10ml Aperol
  • 10ml Cherry Heering
  • 5ml Kamm & Sons
  • 2 Dash orange bitters

Combine ingredients, throw and strain. Come on, it’s Hudson. What did you expect?

Lee Potter Cavanagh – The Bend Down

  • 50ml Appleton 12YO
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters
  • 2 Dashes orange bitters
  • 10ml Demerara sugar syrup
  • 5 Coffee beans

Garnish with a flamed cinnamon quill and orange twist. Serve with a side of Hix Oyster Stout

Murray Drysdale – RumImporter

  • 40ml Appleton 8YO
  • 15ml Flying Dog Porter reduction (4 parts water to 1 part sugar – reduce)
  • 12.5ml PX Sherry
  • 5 Drops liquorice bitters
  • 5 Drops Angostura bitters

Stir down over block ice. Serve straight up in a coupe with an orange twist

Kevin Griffin – Suppertime with Shakespear

  • 40ml Appleton 8YO
  • 15ml Licor 43
  • 15ml Mantineia Sherry (smoked with pink grapefruit zest and Granny Smith apple smoke)

Stir down over block ice. Serve over balled ice in a teacup, with a side of good quality ginger cake.