A trip to St Lucia was up for grabs for the winning team in the final of the Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai competition.
The Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai final might only be in it’s second year but it is already firmly marking itself as one of the must attend events on the calendar for any rum fans in the industry. It is also one of the most fun and interesting cocktail competition finals to judge.
Getting to be one of the final 5 bars is not the usual journey (with social media, promotions and sales being considered alongside the drink itself) and that different take and consideration of the effectiveness of selling the drink continues into the final.
Rather than relying on a panel of industry judges to decide which drink would sell the most to consumers Chairman’s Reserve, very sensibly, use a combination of industry and consumer judges. It is this simple twist, and the way it is enacted, that make the competition so interesting.
All Try Mai Tai
Over the past few months bars across the country had been promoting and selling their twists on the classic Mai Tai. Once the dust had settled the judges picked five finalists to battle it out at the final in London. Those finalists were:
Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
Ten Mill Lane, Cardiff
Colonel Porter’s, Newcastle
Each of these venue’s were given a bar within the sprawling space of Magic Roundabout in Old Street Station. What they did with these bars was up to them. The only rule they had to follow was being able to serve their Mai Tai twists to the judges that came to their bars.
The twist was that the judges were…. well everyone. Through various platforms consumers had been invited to Magic Roundabout with the lure of free Mai Tai twists from bars across the land. Unsurprisingly they came in droves. Magic Roundabout isn’t a small venue but it was packed, and the bars had queues of eager faces waiting for their drinks.
Alongside the consumer judges were a group of industry experts, such as Ian Burrell, Roger Barnes, Sly Augustin, Georgi Radev and BarLifeUK. Our tough job was to have a wander around, visit the bars and try the drinks.
As expected we got to try some very interesting and tasty twists on the Mai Tai what was less expected was the glimpse we got into the finalists bars. Some we knew (although it acted as a stark reminder we should return to them sooner rather than later), however some were new to us and all are definitely on our must visit list now.
What we rapidly began to realise as the evening wore on was the judges favourites may not necessarily be the consumers favourites. It is this unknown that makes the judging of this competition so interesting and fun.
Soon it was time for Emporia’s Matthew Dakers to gather the crowd round and silence them enough to hear the announcement. The winner of this years Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai competition and jumping on a jet plane to St Lucia was, Milk, Reading.
All of the industry expert judges we spoke to had put Milk in their top two, so it transpired that the industry and consumer were in complete agreement. With such a tasty drink (specs below) served with such smiles and hospitality it was no surprise everyone was won over.
A particularly big doff of the cap needs to go to the other bars who really put in a huge amount of effort not just at the final but in the months leading up to it. They all performed superbly and it really could have gone any way on the night
Keep an eye out next year for the return of this competition, you’ll want to enter and you’ll definitely want to get yourself a ticket to the final itself.
Pearl of the Caribbean
35ml Chairman’s Reserve Spiced
20ml Chairman’s Reserve Gold
15ml fresh lime juice
35ml milk shrub no.2*
3 dash angostura bitters
Shake and strain over crushed ice in up-cycled food tin. Garnish with a thyme sprig, dehydrated lime and desiccated coconut.
200ml caster sugar
175ml cold water
Whole fig, in 8ths
2 big lime peels
50ml crushed almonds
25ml chairman spiced
15ml orange flower water
50ml red wine vinegar
Bring sugar and water to boil, dissolve sugar fully. Add figs and lime peel and simmer for 5 min. Remove from heat and add crushed almonds. Bring back to boil and simmer for 2 min. Add Chairman’s and orange flower water. Simmer for 1 min. Add red wine vinegar. Simmer for 1 min, let cool slightly and filter through coffee filter.