A trip to Tennessee is up for grabs with Uncle Nearest and Round 1 proved the winner was going to earn their seat on the plane.
The Tennessee Shake Up competition is unlike any other that BarLifeUK has been involved in, with bartenders going head to head across a series of rounds testing a variety of skills. Beat your opponent and advance to the next stage.
The first round saw the competitors making their signature serve for the three judges – BarLifeUK, Uncle Nearest Brand Ambassador Dan Priseman and all round legend and American Whiskey fan Jamie Jones.
Due to a couple of competitors suffering from the summer flu there were three wildcards up for grabs but the only way to guarantee advancing to the semi-finals was to beat their heads up opponent. Each pair would have 5 minutes each to make their drink and entertain the judges.
Davide Leanza, Punch Room Vs. Cai Beynon, The Lexington
Davide kicked us off with his drink the Master Green, he landed some early blows with some great brand knowledge and created a drink combining Uncle Nearest, Cynar, grenadine and lemon juice. Cai wasn’t fazed by Davide’s strong start and quickly went about creating his Lincoln County Revolver (a twist on the Toronto and Revolver cocktails) whilst entertaining us with tales of a recent trip to the US. The drink also matched Uncle Nearest with Cynar, this time paired with Demerara & plantain syrup, Mr Black’s and walnut bitters.
Winner: Cai, Wildcard: Davide
Siebe Begemann, Terrace Bar @ The Chesterfield Hotel Vs. Angelo Lo Greco, Stables Bar @ The Milestone Hotel
Siebe also looked at a classic cocktail for inspiration, the Rusty Popcorn was certainly designed to be a crowd pleaser with Uncle Nearest and Drambuie mixed with popcorn syrup and rock salt. It looked amazing but a slightly heavy hand when the popcorn syrup was added gave Angelo an opening. He certainly didn’t hold back with a full afternoon tea set-up complete with chocolates and biscuits for the judges. His serve, Santa Baby Spicy Tipple was a lovely mix of Uncle Nearest, orange curaçao, honey and apple & cinnamon tea, blazed for extra visual effect.
Giacomo Cicciarello, Stables Bar @ The Milestone Hotel Vs. James Tuckey, LCC Islington
Two first time competitors faced off next, with very different styles. Giacomo was another drawing on sweet notes associated with Tennessee Whiskies. S’il vous plâit Tennessee mixed Uncle Nearest with cognac, Frangelico, Southern Comfort and chocolate bitters, the serve (a cocoa covered martini glass) was designed to put James on the back foot. James came out of the blocks hard with an energetic and fun presentation. His drink didn’t let him down with WiskiLeaks combining Uncle Nearest, Martini Rosato, Cherry Marnier, Angostura bitters and orange bitters.
Daniel Futong, Stillwater Vs. Chris Smith, The Lexington
Daniel quickly put himself on the front foot with an entertaining and confident presentation which put the judges at ease. However a missing ingredient in his twist on the whiskey and coke, a balance of Uncle Nearest, Clayton’s Kola Tonic, Demerara syrup, maple syrup, Boggarts Bitters, lime bitters and champagne gave Chris the chance he needed. Having seen several twists come before him the originality of his Irish Coffee twist wasn’t lost on Chris ‘I live in East London and am covered in tattoo’s but I’m not as original as I thought I was’. His Uncle Nearest, brioche, Demerara syrup and coffee serve was one of the best Irish Coffee style drinks we’ve had and delivered a knockout blow.
Winner: Chris, Wildcard: Daniel
Diego Arrojo, The Bootlegger Vs. Aurel Istrate, The Connaught Vs. Sam Boevey, LCC
Diego had been busy being our host all day but was now up to compete in a three-way battle royal. He managed to produce a garnish that stuck fear into the other two with a sugared lime disc that had the judges in awe, one of the most creative we’ve ever seen. His drink Love Cupid had a hard time living up to the serve with the Uncle Nearest, vermouth rosso, lime juice, smoked caramel syrup and triple sec not quiet working on the day. Aurel proved that simple ingredients well thought out and balanced can create fantastic drinks with Uncle Nearest being paired with Pimm’s, Yellow Chartreuse and Peychaud’s Bitters and aroma coming from a sage leaf. Last of the day Sam had another twist in store for us, this time drawing from the Hemingway Daiquiri. The Uncle Ernest consisted of Uncle Nearest, Martini Ambrato, Luxardo Maraschino, lemon juice, pink grapefruit juice, maple syrup and, as we have come to expect from LCC bartenders in the past few years, some great chat.
Winner: Aurel, Wildcard: Sam
Next up is the semi-finals where two more head to head challenges await. A classics round and a mystery box round. We can’t wait to see who triumphs.
A big thanks to all the competitors and especially to Diego from The Bootlegger who looked after everyone exceptionally well all day.