The Swizzle Comp is back and with it one of the greatest brand prizes out there, a trip to Guyana.
The Swizzle is a category of drink which, we believe, is massively overlooked and generally forgotten by modern bartenders. Why, we have no idea, it has theatre, it’s fun, drinks don’t get much more refreshing and consumers love them. If you have crushed ice in your bar, they are always worth considering.
Many years ago we found another fan of the Swizzle in the form of El Dorado rum and, with then Brand Ambassador Stef Holt, spent a couple of years judging the El Dorado Swizzle Competition across the country. We had amazing drinks and a whole lot of brilliant presentations, it had been a few years but we were confident this trend would continue.
About 5 minutes into the Glasgow heat, at one of our favourite spots in the UK, The Gate, and any lingering doubts were gone, the El Dorado Swizzle Comp was back.
The brief for the competition was purposely open, rum competitions should be fun. Christ if you can’t have fun in a rum competition when the hell can you? So we wanted the bartenders who got through to be able to show off without many restraints. As a result the rules were: use a min of 30ml of El Dorado 3 or 5yo and be swizzled, that was it.
On the day the judging panel of BarLifeUK, El Dorado Brand Ambassador Oren Coleman and Cask Liquid Marketing rockstar Jennie Rae Chuter, were in a generous mood giving the competitors a generous 8 minutes to make two serves of their swizzle and entertain us.
Marcus Gordon of Orchid Bar in Aberdeen kicked off proceedings with a drink inspired by native Guyanese ingredients. He quickly had the whole room focusing on him with a funny and relaxed presentation and a banana based drink that Jennie Rae in particular couldn’t get enough of. His Orchid colleague Gavin Sharp looked closer to home for inspiration with classic Scottish ingredients such as gooseberry and pine cleverly used in a tropical feeling drink. It wasn’t only clever flavours but the garnish, pine tips, and colour made it one of the best looking serves of the day.
Not often do competitors have to get a boat to a competition but if you live and work on the Isle of Arran as David McLean does, well that’s how it is done. It definitely wasn’t a wasted journey with a hugely entertaining presentation based around Guyana’s drinking culture. You don’t often hear the phrase ‘That’s not going to be pleasant to drink by itself’ during a comp but thankfully all the ingredients worked superbly when combined in his Local Drink Swizzle.
The Gate’s very own Robyn Clamp once again took us on a journey during her presentation, this time revolving around Guyanese folk lore. In particular one involving a ‘Big Greedy King’, when this king died fruit grew from his grave, sour like the king and with a crown, the Guava and the base flavour for her swizzle. She also somehow managed to give a tribute to Olivia Newton-John hours before she died with the name – Let’s Get Swizzical.
The Swizzle is many things as a cocktail but sexy is not a word that immediately springs to mind, or at least it wasn’t until Zach Sapato from The Absent Ear introduced us to ‘The Art Of Swizzduction’. There were rose petals, chocolate covered strawberries, a light show and Barry White, although let us not forget that ‘Before we swizzduce others we must swizzduce ourselves.’. Often with presentations as entertaining as Zach’s the drink suffers, not on this occasion however, with an almost Christmas flavoured swizzle courtesy of spruce beer and chocolate being a delicious twist on the category.
Oscar McClure from Sohe in Newcastle had ordered a world map to help show the origins of his Guyanese ingredients which aren’t native to the land. The map turned out to be significantly bigger than expected, covering almost the whole back bar, as a result the presentation turned into an episode of Dave’s Comedians Giving Lectures show with Oscar turning into John Richardson. It was hilarious and informative oh and if anyone wants any Palm Wine, give him a shout.
Last up was Ga Ga Bar’s Scott Stevenson who somehow made the history of the swizzle both interesting and hilarious. His raspberry beer shrub was the base of the drink and paired very well with the El Dorado 5yo however it was the vermouth infused with samphire root, to make up for the missing flavour the bark from the swizzle sticks of old used to give, that really made the difference.
It was tough to narrow the field down to two, who will be heading to the final in London next month, but on the day it was Zach and Marcus who came out victorious.
A huge thanks to The Gate and in particular Ally for being such fantastic hosts and of course El Dorado and Cask for putting the whole thing on.
For now I’ll leave you with some wise words from Scott ‘Doing comps is like travelling on an airplane, always check you have your stuff when you disembark.’