The final stop on the Meister Hunter road trip was London, and the expectations were high.
We’d had a great time over the past couple of weeks travelling the country with heats in Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester already under our belt. We’d had some fantastic drinks, seen some amazing presentations, and were therefore pumped to see what London had in store for us.
To help pick the two bartenders who would be advancing to the final, the core judging team of Jägermeister UK Brand Ambassador & amateur stopwatch user Florian Beuren and BarLifeUK were joined by two guns. Defending Meister Hunter champ Benji Davies from Little Mercies (who were also our hosts for the day) and Sexy Fish’s very own Sophie Bratt were there to give some very welcome assistance.
The judging panel was refreshed but the challenge for the competitors remained the same. Namely make two cocktails, the Jägermeister Cold Brew serve that qualified them for this stage and a Manifest highball with no more than 4 ingredients, all in 6 minutes or less. As well as the all-important taste of the drinks, there were also points up for grabs for their presentation skills.
Once the supporters had one of the delicious Jägermeister cocktails from the Little Mercies team in hand, we were ready to get going.
Deers & Cheers
Pulling number one out of the shaker was Swift Bar’s Lewis Cooke who kicked us off with a presentation around the ritual of ‘Cheers’, which he missed during lockdown. His Cold Brew serve was a fantastic twist on an Irish Coffee with the liquid being the cold element and the foam being the warm, he also replaced the coffee with Oolong Tea to allow the Cold Brew to shine. A great way to get us going.
The London heat of the Meister Hunter competition wouldn’t be the same without Anna Gaglione from The Racketeer, this being her third year in a row. She always brings a big smile and even bigger flavours and this year was no exception. Her Manifest highball, featuring a berry, hibiscus and Campari tea, was what can only be described as a summer banger which looked as good as it tasted.
Oliver Deak is a freelance flair bartender who was there to show us ‘flair bartenders also have a brain and soul’. His presentation was superb with his Cold Brew serve based around a guy on a hunt on a cold German morning. However, it was his drinks presentations that really stay in the memory with both serves looking elegant and modern.
Cocktail Trading Co’s Elvis Birbalas came out all guns blazing with a highly entertaining presentation built around Titanic. His first serve, Paint Me Like One Of Your French Girls, not only took naming skills from his CTC training but also taste. It was a complex serve full of flavour that took what you’d expect from a Cold Brew drink and turned it on its head. To finish off the full CTC gambit he served his also delicious Manifest highball in a car!
Elliot Pieddeloup from Crossroads has an amazing understanding of complex techniques and methods which he put to great use with both his serves. Whilst his ability to name drinks may need a little bit of work you can’t deny his garnish ability, his cognac and apricot brandy highball was glammed up with an elegant tuile.
When it comes to garnish however, Giorgio Iovine from Gibson won the day. Once again on this Meister Hunter tour there were no visible nerves from a comp first timer, with a funny and entertaining presentation backed up with drinks using lovely German ingredients. His Cold Brew Colada was served punch style and when informed he only had 3 minutes left replied, ‘That’s okay I only need 5 minutes to garnish’, it was an extravaganza that put a big smile on everyone’s face (pic at top of page).
Another first timer and another relaxed presentation came from Hyppolite Civins from Quaglino’s. A flair bartender moving into mixology who, if his highball serve is anything to go by, has made a very good decision. It was a Manifest, honey and ginger delight that had both taste and appearance nailed.
Lill Elitez from Murder Inc. loves ramen, they got her through lockdown, and loves Jägermeister. She combined these two loves in her Cold Brew cocktail, Udon Even Knows, the backbone of which was a frankly addictive miso, maple and oloroso sherry blend. The garnish of a nest of noodles may have made it a bit tricky to drink but added another dimension of flavour when eaten as you sipped in a very clever and well thought out way.
Little Bat’s Thom Solberg was the most experienced face amongst the competitors and his experience shone through in a very funny presentation full of Jägermeister trivia. His long standing love of whisk(e)y was on show with a peated variant being used in his Cold Brew drink. If you’re thinking, like I did, that the whisky would overpower the Jäger, you are, as I was, wrong. They complimented each other expertly, with the champagne top giving it some lightness.
Last to present was Stephen ‘Stevie’ Kane from Lyaness. Despite it being ‘the most amount of people I’ve spoken to in 2 years’ he was back in his element. Focusing on by-products in the form of cacao husks (not cow husks as I managed to hear) with his Cold Brew serve and yogurt whey in his highball. Both drinks were delicious, and it was a great way to finish the day’s competitive drinking.
To the pub for deliberation went the judges and despite their being two slots in the final up for grabs there was still plenty of disagreements and discussions to be had. In the end we had to squeeze three potential winners into the two slots and it was Elvis and Thom that came out on top, big congratulations to those two.
A big thanks to the Little Mercies team for their hospitality and much needed mid-judge food. Also to all the competitors for all their hard work and their supporters for their enthusiasm. As always thanks to the Jägermeister team for looking after me so well on the tour, especially for putting up with my ability to break things and annoy Florian.
The final of the competition is taking place over two days later next month and having heard what’s in store it is going to be a fantastic experience for the seven finalists. We will be there and will be bringing you all the news and of course who walks away the £3K grand prize.