Eight heats saw ten finalists being chosen to compete at the final of the Old Forester Repeal Day Competition.
Ever since we sat down with Old Forester Brand Manager Stuart Fritz and heard about his plans for a Repeal Day inspired cocktail competition we were looking forward to being involved. The idea of creating a cocktail to celebrate Repeal Day using Old Forester had our attention and we were excited to see what the country’s top bartenders were going to come up with.
It seems we weren’t the only ones as the response to the competition was huge, so much so an extra London heat had to be added to accommodate the high level of drink entries we received. The prize certainly helped with the top three winners all getting themselves a trip to Kentucky and most impressively their names displayed at the new distillery.
The competition kicked off at Berry & Rye in Liverpool and BarLifeUK were on hand to help with the judging. Liverpool bartenders certainly know how to celebrate and all got behind the concept of the competition.
Ben Halpin nailed the brief, with champagne being handed out to everyone in the room to toast the end of prohibition. Unfortunately, his innovative straining method through muslin didn’t come off on the day, which was a real shame as the drink tasted fantastic. Jack Riley on home turf also performed well with his Daisy twist based on the new ingredients that bartenders brought back to the US with them after Repeal Day.
However, it was Blind Tiger’s Josh Ambrose who became the first bartender in the country to book their spot at the UK final, with his twist on the Champagne Cocktail ‘The Power Of Perseverance’, which not only hit the brief, but tasted damn good as well.
As the competition continued its journey across the country, more and more bartenders found their way into the final. Adam Day & Emily Reynolds took out the Manchester heat, whilst it was Iain Silver in Leeds and Robert Squire in Leicester joining Josh on the final shortlist.
The first London heat had some big guns behind the stick, so big guns were also needed in the judging seats and Old Forester pulled out all the stops. Not only was US ambassador for Old Forester Jackie Zykan on hand, but brand president Campbell Brown was also over in the UK to pick a winner.
Obviously London bartenders have a sweet tooth, as therewas plenty of chocolate on show during the heat as both an ingredient and a garnish, which was popular with the judges feeling the aperitif effect of several stirred drinks. In the end, Dominic Whisson of the Savoy’s American bar won the heat, with his drink: ‘Generation ’33’.
Back on the road, the competition went north of the border with Andy Stewart and Miran Chauhan representing Aberdeen and Edinburgh respectively, before ducking down south for the Bristol heat, where Rose Brookman took out the win.
For the final heat, we were back in London at Found with just one place up for grabs and BarLifeUK back on the judging panel. It was another impressive turn out with all 10 competitors having plenty enough skills to take out the win.
Jerome from Sexy Fish gave one of the most original presentations we have seen in a while with each judge getting a prescription in his ‘pharmacy’ before a radio played announcing the end of prohibition resulting in a bottle of champagne being sabred (always a brave move in a comp).
Alistair, from 54 Islington Park Street, stood out with, not only his presentation, but also with an amazing bourbon ice cream in his coke float-style serve, as did Alex from Mash, with a Daiquiri twist including a superb homemade sparkling wine syrup.
However it was another Alex, Alex Palumbo, from the Salt Room in Brighton, who had the complete package which saw him triumph. He used a great trick which we will be stealing, by infusing his eggs with chamomile, giving a fantastic and subtle flavour to his drink.There were also plenty of great bartending skills on hand to keep the judges happy.
There are some exceptionally strong drinks in the final ten, so it is going to be a real fight to find the top three at the final in Leeds on February 10th. We will be there to bring you all of the news as it happens.
A huge thank you to everyone who competed, everyone who came along to support and the bars who looked after us so well during the heats. Below is a list of all the winning drinks for you to work your way through.
Robert Squire, Haycock & Tailbar Associates, Leicester
50ml Old Forester Barrel finished with Picon Amer and Ruby Port
4 dashes Angostura Bitters
Add all ingredients to to preparation glass and stir till correct dilution. Served in a hip flask hidden in a hollowed out book, with a glass filled with smoke to decant cocktail into.
Andy Stewart, Tippling House, Aberdeen
40ml Old Forester
10ml Creme de Sapin
10ml Sweet Vermouth
2.5ml Ghost Pepper Chilli Tincture
1/2 Bar spoon Sugar
1 Dash Whiskey Barrel Bitters
All ingredients into a mixing glass and stir with cracked ice. Pour over more cracked ice in a medicinal receptacle. Serve with mug on the side.
Alex Palumbo, The Salt Room, Brighton
50ml Old Forester
25ml Smoked Lemon Juice
10ml Rich Sugar Syrup
1/2 Peach soaked in Angostura Bitter
Chamomile infused Egg White
Honey Ale top
In a shaker place the 1/2 peach and soak it in Angostura bitter. Blow torch it for few seconds to enhance the flavours and then muddle it. Add the Bourbon, the Smoked lemon juice, the Syrup and the egg white previously scented with chamomile. Dry shake first and then add ice and the shake hard. Double strain in a Highball glass and top up with Brown Honey Ale.
Rose Brookman, Amoeba, Bristol
50ml Old Forester
25ml homemade spiced cranberry syrup
1/4 teaspoon citric acid
12.5ml fruity red wine
Put old forester, spiced cranberry syrup, citric acid and egg white in a Boston tin and shake with ice. Shake again without ice and pour into glass. Pour red wine in slowly to form a float under the foam.
Iain Silver, Pintura, Leeds
50ml Old Forester
15ml pecan syrup
3 drops red eye coffee reduction
Shake and pour over granche. Served with a pecan and candid bacon brittle.
Josh Ambrose, Blind Tiger, Liverpool
40ml Old Forrester
20ml IPA gomme
10ml Floc Gascogne
Dash peychauds bitters
Build in champagne flute. Garnish with dehydrated lemon, served on playing card on top of charred wood.
Dominic Whisson, American Bar at The Savoy, London
50ml Old Forester
15ml Cocchi Americano
10ml Pedro Ximinez
5 dashes Creole Bitters
Built in mixing glass and stirred. Orange and lemon twists discarded. Savoy ice cube.
Shake all ingredients well and fine strain into a clean bottle. Seal and refrigerate.Pour into your favourite chilled glass. Serve with dehydrated pineapple, fennel pollen & Old Forester soaked cherries.
Emily Reynolds, The Blue Pig, Manchester
40ml Old Forester Bourbon
12.5ml Green Chartreuse 10ml homemade apple and garlic syrup 2 dashes ginger bitters
5ml Vimto cordial
In a mixing glass stir down the whiskey, chartreuse, syrup and bitters with ice cubes. Strain into a coupe. Then, using a syringe, ‘inject’ the drink with a small amount of vimto cordial which settles at the top creating a pretty colour effect. Garnish with dehydrated apple.