El Recuerdo & Zignum Mezcal Competition 2023 Northern Heat Results

Bartenders from Leeds and Manchester progress to the El Recuerdo & Zignum National final

Winners James Plant (L) and Miley Kendrick

Last week, bartenders from across the North of England gathered for the first regional heat of the 2023 El Recuerdo and Zignum mezcal competition. Two competitors, one for each mezcal, would secure a spot in the National final, with the two ultimate champions winning trips to Oaxaca, and the runners-up bagging trips to Barcelona – one of the best travel-related prizes offered by any cocktail competition.

The Northern heat took place on a gloriously sunny Spring day at Verve, in Leeds, which is next door to Mojo – the cause of two of BarLifeUK’s all-time top-ten hangovers. Upon arrival the competitors were first entertained by Love Drinks’ Northern Rep Elisha Savage’s story about running herself over with her own car, before being briefed on the day’s proceedings, which were pleasingly straightforward – each bartender had 5 minutes to prep, and then ten minutes to make their drink. El Recuerdo entries would go first, followed by a pizza break, and then it would be Zignum’s turn. Names went into highball to determine a running order, and we were off…

El Recuerdo Mezcal

Miley Kendrick

As with all competitions, some bartenders nailed their drink and others nailed their presentation, but to win, you need to nail both. Before talk about the person who did that, a couple of honourable mentions are in order. The first goes to James Plant of Albert’s Schloss, who delivered one of the best presentations I’ve seen in some time. He regaled us with a story of wild Piñata galloping around the Mexican countryside, and invoked the spirit of Mariachi music by ‘maturing’ his drink with a song. It was a top-notch performance and very entertaining. Danny Morton of Modo in Liverpool also deserves a shout-out for making a beautifully balanced and refreshing drink called ‘Faith In My Paloma’, which was extremely dangerous on account of its moreishness (I don’t care it that’s not really a word).

However, the most complete performance came from Miley Kendrick of Tiki Hideaway in Leeds, whose drink, ‘What’s Up Guac?’ was an absolute belter. Served with tortilla chips that were smoked on the bar and served with guacamole and edible flowers, it appealed to the eyes and nose as much as the taste buds, and the accompanying presentation was detailed and delivered with confidence. Great work Miley, we look forward to seeing you at the final.

Joe Scott of Call Lane Social in Leeds also delivered a fantastic package of drink and presentation, and was named runner-up. Joe described his drink, Donaji’s Legacy, as the ‘love child’ of a Bloody Mary and a Tommy’s Margarita, and it proved to be delicious. Congrats Joe, we may well see you at the final too, as the wild card situation develops as the heats progress.

El Recuerdo Winner: Miley Kendrick – Tiki Hideaway, Leeds
What’s Up Guac?

  • 50ml El Recuerdo
  • 25ml Lime Juice
  • 25 Cilantro Syrup
  • 2 Drops avocado oil
  • 2 dash chilli salsa
  • 1 egg white

Served with smoked tortilla chips

El Recuerdo Runner-Up: Joe Scott – Call Lane Social, Leeds
Donaji Legacy

  • 50ml El Recuerdo
  • 20ml Britette Mandarin
  • 50ml Tomato consomme
  • 25ml Lime juice
  • 1 Bar spoon chopped jalapeno
  • 1 Bar spoon chopped coriander

Hard shake and double strain. Garnish with dried whole chillis and cherry tomatos.

Zignum Mezcal

James Plant

Fortified with pizza, the Zignum competitors took their turns behind the bar, and as with El Recuerdo there are a couple of bartenders to mention in dispatches before we get to the winner. Davide Visconte of Tiki Hideaway in Liverpool made a delicate Italian take on a mezcal cocktail called Bacchus’ Day Off that was probably the nicest-looking drink of the day, and a pleasure to sip. Salem James, of Science and Industry in Manchester, threw a cocktail, which is always a brave move at a comp, and it turned out to be both delicious and technically interesting, using as it did acid-adjusted orange juice and saline as ingredients – altogether it was a really great competition performance.

However James Plant of Albert’s Schloss in Manchester strung together the winning combination of tasty drink and slick presentation. James delivered a ton of information about Mexico, Zignum, and the history of chocolate that was delivered with the confidence that comes by putting in plenty of rehearsal time, and the drink, Montezuma’s Mole, was an absolute belter. Combined, James’ entry sets a very high standard that will be tough to beat at the final.

Eddie Smyth of Tariff & Dale in Manchester took second place with a drink called Manhattan and Mole, which was a perfectly balanced, classic-style sipper served with delicious brownies that went down a treat. Excellent work Eddie…

Zignum Winner: James Plant – Albert’s Schloss, Manchester
Montezuma’s Mole

  • 30ml Zignum Mezcal
  • 25ml vanilla vodka Absolut
  • 30ml Tempus fugit Cacao
  • 3 Dash Angustora cacao bitters
  • Bar spoon agave
  • 7.5ml Chills Pimento dram
  • 5ml sous vide lime juice (recipe below)
  • Stir down, double strain into Nic & Nora Glass with Salted chocolate rim

(Sous Vide Lime Juice Recipe; add the zest of half a lime, juice of a full lime, 25ml water and a bar spoon of sugar into bag in hot water (50-70 degrees) for half an hour and then double strain to create sous vide lime juice)

Zignum Runner-Up: Eddie Smyth – Tariff & Dale Manchester
Left Hand to Mexico

  • 50ml Zignum Reposado
  • 15ml Ancho Reyes liqueur
  • 10ml Martini Rubino sweet vermouth
  • 5ml Tempus Fugit Creme de Cacao
  • 2.5ml Vanilla syrup
  • 2 dash Homemade Chocolate ‘Mole’ bitters
  • Stir & strain into Nick & Nora.
  • Flamed lemon zest & discard. Spicy brownie served as an accompaniment.

As ever, huge thanks go to everyone who competed, a ton of time, work, and effort goes into creating a drink and presentation, and then travelling to present it. BarLifeUK appreciate the efforts of the bartenders, and also the team at Verve for looking after us so well on the day. Congratulations to the two winners, we’ll see you at the final…