The latest El Dorado comp asked bartenders to match drinks to bespoke serving vessels – as ever, a trip to Guyana was at stake.
Cocktail competitions are serious old things these days. In much the same way that a £5 card game with your mates is a more relaxed affair than the World Series of Poker final, I suppose it could be said that by and large, competitions have ‘gone pro’.
With increasingly epic prizes ranging from hefty cheques to full time ambassador gigs, it was probably inevitable that some of the fun would be sucked out of them.
Somehow, El Dorado’s competitions buck this trend. The prize is just as epic as the others (for most people, an expenses-paid trip to Guyana is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence), and yet bartenders still turn up to compete with that pleasing mix of ‘good drink – good chat – winging it a bit’ mentality that, in the right hands, throws up some truly entertaining performances.
This year, instead of the traditional Swizzle comp, El Dorado’s award-winning ambassador, Stef Holt, commissioned the creation of two bespoke vessels. The first, a green ceramic bromeliad, complete with yellow frog, was to be paired with El Dorado 3YO, and the second, a bamboo mug etched with Jaguar spots, was intended for 5YO.
In the regional heats, competitors picked the vessel and rum they wanted to work with and created a drink and presentation that made the most of both. Points were split between the quality of the drinks, knowledge and performance, and in-venue promotion.
Those that made it through to the final, held in London’s Call Me Mr Lucky (an excellent basement hideaway), had to make a drink for the vessel they didn’t use in the heats, in addition to their original cocktail.
The level of effort and prep that went into the presentations was exceptional, with David Hamilton-Boyd’s recreation of the rainforest, replete with working waterfall and rising mists was a work of art (if I had some lego Star Wars Speeder Bike figures at home, I would probably have stolen it).
On the drink front, there were some crackers too – Daniel Crowther’s Snickerbocker Glory (El Dorado 5YO, white cacao and Snickers ganash) is one of the nicest, heart attack-inducing ‘desert drinks’ I’ve ever tasted.
However, as it often is with two-drink comps, the key to winning was nailing both cocktails (and performances), and the bartender who got it right on the day was Lee Jones from Smokestack, Leeds
Both of Lee’s drinks were exceptionally tasty, and his knowledge and relaxed-yet-funny chat saw him edge the win. So congratulations then to Lee – as it was a strong old field – he fully deserves the trip to Guyana and bottle of El Dorado 21YO.
Congratulations also go to Ruairidh Muir of Raoul’s in Oxford who was narrowly beaten into second place. His prize was a bottle of El Dorado 25YO, but I think we all know that never made it back to Oxford.
Lee Jones’ Winning Drinks
60ml El Dorado 3yr
20ml Lime juice
40ml Coconut water
40ml Apricot syrup
5ml Cacao blanc
10ml Demerara simple syrup
Garnish: Mint leaves. Edible flowers. Cream soda mist.