Jake Blanch, Room 310 & The Freepour Competition

The Freepour competition rocked.

Lunch on the beach... does life get any better?

It took place in Cornwall and vying for the ultimate prize were Jake Blanch, Jake Blanch, Jake Blanch, Jake Blanch and Jake Blanch.

At least, that’s what the guys working the night desk at the Falmouth Beach Hotel thought.

If there were such a book as the Guide to Surviving Cocktail Competitions, the first entry should probably be: “Never, under any circumstances, tell fellow travelling bartenders your hotel room number.”

Jake, alas, has not read this fictional book, and as such let it be known which room he was shacked up in. From that moment on, our drinks were on his tab.

You live and learn eh?

So, back to Freepour.

This was the competition’s second iteration after a 2 year gap caused by the very sad death of co-founder, Matthew Palfreyman.

It was clear that Matthew is greatly missed by the South West’s bartending community. When Seb Hamilton-Mudge, Eight Bar owner and the competition’s other co-founder, raised a glass to Matthew, everyone in attendance followed suit… it was a poignant moment.

The competition itself matched some of London’s best bartenders against their opposite numbers from the South West, with individual and team performance being measured in a number of rounds.

Set at Falmouth’s Princess Pavilion, which has sea views, a bandstand, room for food stalls and outside satellite bars – all of which were put to good use during a full day of competition.

One Day Cocktail Festival

Winner Stu Bale with Seb Hamilton-Mudge

In short, Freepour is a hair’s breadth away from becoming a bona fida one-day cocktail festival. Thanks in large part to the support of Pernod Ricard, another year of development and Freepour could see ever-growing numbers of London ‘tenders heading South to compete.

On this occasion, BarLifeUK weren’t judging, and so did not taste many of the competition drinks, but it was clear a lot of thought and preparation had gone into them. Everyone involved wanted to win, and it was a close run thing.

In the end, London just pipped the South West in the team standings, and the ultimate winner was Stu Bale from London’s 69 Colebrook Row. Jake Blanch from Hix London took second, and Justin Bell from Bristol’s Hausbar came in third.

As ever, the end of the competition was just the start of the evening, and after slamming a quick pizza, everyone decamped to Eight Bar, which is a small but perfectly formed cocktail bar in Falmouth. I think everyone involved would like to thank Seb and the Eight Bar team for some proper Southern Hospitality, and some top-notch drinks.

From this point on, things got a bit loose.

Bartender Sandwich

Some headed to the beach for a paddle. Some headed back to the hotel to slam Jake’s room tab (and turn his bed upside down, facilitated by a fraudulently gained room key).

The eponymous Stu Hudson and I played pool. I of course comprehensively thrashed him, and proved once and for all that the English are superior to Aussies at sport (and life in general).

To conclude, it was a top night.

The next day, 9 bleary eyed London bartenders, Pernod Ricard ambassadors and one journo enjoyed a great lunch on the beach, looking out to sea in inexplicably good weather before starting a train journey that would last the best part of 7 hours.

You can probably imagine how that went.

What could possibly go wrong?

Shaking cocktails in the carriage aisle seemed like a great idea.

After that, making a Blue Blazer in the carriage aisle seemed like an even greater idea.

However, discretion seemed the better part of valour at this point, but not ones to give up easily, Stu Hudson and Jake Blanch leapt onto the platform at some sleepy village station mid-journey, and did it there.

The world’s first train station Blazer? I like to think so…

The world's first train platform Blazer?

Needless to say, it was a long journey, and as we went our separate ways at Paddington, I think bed was on everyone’s mind.

That and next year’s Freepour comp. If you can get there, you should… It was a great weekend by the sea, and no doubt the South West will be out for revenge next time, so your city needs you.

Just make sure you stay in the same hotel as Jake… He is a very generous host when otherwise engaged…

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