This was the second year that BarLifeUK have been on hand to judge the final of the El Dorado Swizzle Competition and it continued to be one of the most fun comps out there.
The fun could come from the fact the Swizzle is an inherently fun drink to make, the fact that rum is synonymous with silliness or that El Dorado and its International Brand Manager the award winning Stefanie Holt are confident enough in the quality of the liquid to not take themselves too seriously. In actuality it is almost certainly a mix of all three but whatever the reason, when the call comes to get involved BarLifeUK always answer with great gusto.
11finalists descended on the recently opened Hoxley & Porter in Islington (sister bar to Clapham’s superb Powder Keg Diplomacy). They had earned their places by producing an original El Dorado based Swizzle in one of the 6 regional heats and finishing in the top two.
The final is a step up from the heats for the competitors, and so it should be with a trip to the home of El Dorado in Guyana up for grabs (we were lucky enough to go earlier this year and if you want to know just how good the trip is click here). The step up saw each competitor not just make their original Swizzle but also a drink inspired by one of Guyana’s most famous natural sights.
Kaieteur Falls is the world’s largest single drop waterfall and this was the name of the cocktail that each bartender also had to create. That was it, invent a drink called the Kaieteur Falls containing El Dorado. The creativity gloves were off and the judges were not disappointed.
Joining BarLifeUK on the panel was the aforementioned Stef and Manchester legend and all round danger man Lyndon Higginson. This happened to be last years judging panel but to keep things fresh last years victor, Alex Proudfoot, was added. We had all been on the Guyana trip together so we understood just what a prize this was.
Despite being thrown by the fact that Alex had turned up minus his trademark mullet and awful tie but we vowed to carry on. The running order was pulled out of a hat and we were off and running.
We knew the Swizzles were going to be impressive, they had got their creator to the final after all, but there were still a few that really stood out from the crowd.
Ever since the heats there had been a Spruce Beer battle brewing with both Bristol’s Gent James and Manchester’s Brodie Meah including this little used product in their drinks. Brodie had found a non-alcoholic version online, which he combined with both 12 and 5 year old El Dorado plus some homemade orgeat, lemon juice and bitters to produce a superb drink.
As we have come to expect from James he went one step further, after failing to find any decent alcoholic Spruce Beer in the UK he teamed up with a local Bristol brewer to produce his very own Spruce Juice Beer. The end result was an amazing beer and combined with El Dorado 5, lime juice and Demerara sugar syrup an even more amazing cocktail.
James also produced one of my favourite lines of the day when, not for the first time, the judges were covered in a wave of crushed ice during an enthusiastic swizzle he exclaimed ‘if something doesn’t jump out of the glass it ain’t a swizzle.’
Dan Bovey took everyone on a lovely trip down memory lane with his Greenheart Screwball Swizzle combining memories of sweets of the past with the story of his relationship with his lovely wife Ash (including a picture of the biggest Rhubarb plant ever!). The drink and presentation summed up the day perfectly – great fun, great drink.
With the creativity gloves well and truly removed it was no surprise we had some excellent and original drink presentations in this round (although a remarkably small amount of people threw their drinks).
Top of that list has to be Sean from Portside Parlour in London who had built a device specifically to make this
cocktail in. It was a three level (one for each colour on the Guyanese flag) ‘Botanical Waterfall’ – hell here’s a picture of it, check it out yourself. It was great theatre and was greeted by all sorts of oooohs and ahhhhs from the crowd.
Dan had obviously heard about the short flight in a tiny plane to the falls as his drink came in kit form contained in a sandwich box to calm the nerves of any anxious flyers on the trip. Manchester’s Massimo decide to serve his Falls cocktail with food and flattery announcing that El Dorado 12 was ‘the quintessential rum of bartenders’ alongside his Swizzle which was the most beautifully presented drink of the day.
Lee Potter-Cavanagh picked up second place overall in the end and a bottle of El Dorado 25 year old for his troubles. He managed to produce two fantastic drinks and, as always, kept the judges and crowd entertained with his presentation, even pulling out the motorised swizzle stick. In fact that may well be Lee’s last comp on UK shores as he is moving back to Australia next month, a crying shame but at least he’s got some fancy booze to take back with him.
However the winner really went that extra mile with his presentations, serves and quality of drinks. It was no surprise to anyone in the room apart from maybe the man himself when Brodie Meah from Manchester was named as the guy on his way to Guyana.
His Kaieteur Falls cocktail was accompanied by an iPad assisted story of his mission to find El Dorado on his holidays, ending with each judge getting a bracelet (there was nothing in the rules against bribery). His Swizzle was also thought through to the last detail with it being served on posters he had designed to showcase the drink in his bar and edible El Dorado Hair Gel. However we know style without substance gets you no-where, his drinks were also banging and you can see the full specs below.
It was a great day and with the El Dorado flowing even those who didn’t win had a lot of fun, we certainly did. Thanks to the guys at Hoxley & Porter, to all the competitors and their supporters and of course to El Dorado and Love Drinks for yet another great comp. A personal thank you to Lyndon for going home that night so I didn’t feel awful the next day.
Have fun in Guyana Brodie and don’t forget the mozzie spray.
Winner Brodie Meah
Spruce Ya Self Up Swizzle
30ml El Dorado 5yo
30ml El Dorado 12yo
25ml lemon juice
20ml homemade demerara orgeat
25ml spruce beer
2 Dash Angostura Bitters
Swizzle and serve with an orange zest, El Dorado 12 hair gel, cologne & advert
Kaieteur Falls – Wish You Were Here
25ml El Dorado 12yo
35ml El Dorado 5yo
15ml homemade vanilla syrup
10ml coffee infused sweet vermouth
1 egg yolk
Pinch sea salt
Shake and fine strain into a coupette glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg & orange zest (discarded).