The second spot on the plane to Ibiza for the final and the chance to win £4,500 was up for grabs for the South of England’s best bartenders.
They turned out in force with representatives from Exeter, Brighton and Oxford joining the local Bristol contingent.
There is something about this competition that very appropriately brings out the sun whenever a heat is held and as Bristol was swathed in the golden rays a group of bartenders and (surprisingly un-hungover after a night in Bristol) judges walked through the big welcoming doors of Milk Thistle.
Despite being inside one of Bristol’s giant old buildings the beautiful weather was with us as the competition bar on the first floor was framed by a huge stain glass window which not only let in the sun but also gave each competitor an ethereal glow.
Whenever we have judged a competition in the South of England we have been blown away by the camaraderie of all bartenders. Shown not only in the support of each other but in the respect they show when others are presenting.
Over the past few years Bristol and Reading have shone out when it came to competition winning drinks, but as Bob Dylan said Times They Are A Changin’. Oxford have recently been on a bit of a run of results and Brighton, Exeter and Bournemouth are hot on their heels. This heat showed that trend shows no sign of abating.
Each contestant had to make a Twist on a Dirty Martini and a Mediterranean Inspired Cocktail. The variety of drinks and presentations the judging panel of BarLifeUK, Joe Caro from Gin Mare and Jennie Rae from BarChick.com were presented with kept us well entertained and watered.
We had a Barcelona FC inspired cocktail and presentation from Oxford’s Dan with each ingredient being likened to a member of the great team. Whilst his Oxford compatriot Scott gave us a sharing drink in a fishbowl with the superb name of ‘Knicker Dropper Glory’.
This competition has a history of female bartenders doing exceptionally well and Chelsea from Bristol’s The Rummer kept this going with a Sangria twist which I could have happily drunk a couple of jugs of sat on a beach in Ibiza.
Our host bar Milk Thistle had three competitors enter and it was Ross who’s ‘Blue Drink’ got the biggest ‘Oooooohs’ of the day from the crowd. However it was another Milk Thistle-ite who took second place, Mr Matt Fairhurst with two beautifully balanced drinks. Unfortunately he wasn’t there to collect his prize of a bottle of Gin Mare so we very kindly drunk it for him!
First place went to a new face on the Bristol bar scene (so new in fact you could almost mark this down as a win for Bath), James Bridges from Hausbar who impressed the judges with his drinks and Mediterranean style presentation.
James will be winging his way to Ibiza in August for the UK Final and the chance to win £4,500 in the Global Final the following day.
A big thank you to Bristol in general for their hospitality, everyone for making the effort to come along, Ross and the rest of the Milk Thistle crew for being such great hosts and CASK Liquid Marketing and Gin Mare for putting on such a great competition.
If you want to get to Ibiza and be in for the chance to win £4,500 there are still heats coming in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. To find out more details and how to enter click here.
James’s winning drinks below:
James Bridges – Hausbar
Mediterranean Inspired Cocktail –Thatsa Mare
50ml Gin Mare
25ml organic unwaxed Sicilian lemon juice
15ml orange blossom honey
3 muddled cherry tomatoes
Pinch Mediterranean sea salt
Shaken and served straight up in a frozen coupette garnished with a whole cherry tomato w/ rosemary sprig.
Dirty Martini Twist – The Olive Branch
50ml Gin Mare
10ml green peppercorn infused Vermouth
Barspoon green peppercorn brine
Stirred and served straight up in a frozen martini glass with a drop of black truffle oil in centre and olive leaf garnish.