The second heat of this years competition saw bartenders from across the South of England gather to show us their swizzle.
Following the superb Scotland heat we had two finalists who would be battling at the final to win a trip to the home of El Dorado, Guyana. London saw another group of bartenders hungry to join them.
The heat was taking place in the, thankfully beautifully airconditioned, Nine Lives bar and as the bartenders arrived in various states of sweat drenched anticipation they were greeted by an El Dorado 3 daquiri courtesy of the lovely Oscar behind the bar.
Daquiri’s consumed it was time for action. The judging panel, consisting of BarLifeUK, El Dorado Brand Ambassador Oren Coleman and Cask Liquid Marketing’s Jennie Rae Chuter, were primed. The bartenders were ready to impress with their Swizzle serve, containing El Dorado 3 or 5 year old and some entertaining chat, all within an 8 minute time frame. All was good in the world.
In every cocktail competition there are three things that will always get you points – tasty drink, great chat and wow factor. On this day we were treated to all three.
Chillies are always a dangerous ingredient when it comes to competition cocktails, all to often they completely overpower the drink but when they are used well they can be wonderful. That was certainly the case for Callum Hutchinson of The Gallery in Ipswich and his Picante Swizzle. The balance of his mango and habanero shrub was perfect and when combined with mango puree, red pepper juice and a combination of El Dorado 5 and 12 year olds the resulting drink was one I didn’t want to share with the crowd.
Mikey Robinson from Wild Tavern had an equally well balanced drink, this time another spice was at the heart with a black pepper and honey syrup (black pepper rapidly becoming the cocktail comp ingredient of the summer) combined with apple cider vinegar, lime juice, mint, Spanish sherry, tonka bean, pineapple bitters and El Dorado 5. To use that many ingredients in a drink and allow them all to come through is a real skill and one that Mikey has undoubtably got covered.
Inspiration can come from anywhere, in the case of Matt Roberts from The Little Scarlet Door it came via a piece of art at Glastonbury. This, alongside Guyana’s modern vibrant scene embracing flavours of the world, inspired his drink and in particular his homemade falernum. It was a great presentation with every eye in the room on him, as was the case for Ashley Haines from Milk in Reading. Ashley did a wonderful job of linking his local ingredients back to El Dorado and Guyana with a focus on the sustainability of the company. Making sustainability both informative and fun is no mean feat, he nailed it.
We all know rum is fun and I would suggest the swizzle is the most fun drink style out there, I know Alex Sandu from The Beachcomber agrees. His serve was inspired by childhood sweets and they were not only the garnish but also the entertainment. The drink was served with a large lolly for swizzling and a pack of popping candy, the popping candy immediately started exploding the moment it hit the drink so needed quickly swizzling in. Videos and plenty of laughter ensued.
How do you show someone you love them? Flowers? Romantic meal? Shakira? Well none of those are enough for Maurizio Bruciafreddo from Rockwell. He met the love of his life in his bar, but it was El Dorado that fanned the flames and to celebrate this he presented his cocktail in a handmade giant gold representation of El Dorado’s city of gold complete with dry ice. It was truly spectacular.
There were, however, two competitors on the day who stood out from the crowd.
This year several bartenders have come out of ‘competition retirement’ to flex their muscles, Lee Jones and Sam Baxendale both competed and made the final, so when Nine Lives own Thomas Soden stepped behind the bar the pressure was on.
As it turned out he gave a masterclass in presenting all based around Generation Z including aromatising the room with white sage before putting on an original 1977 print of Timewarp by Guyana’s favourite son, Eddie Grant. Whilst he entertained the room he certainly hadn’t forgotten about the drink with guava, coconut and Picon joining together with El Dorado 3 for a superb tropical celebration.
There is something about certain drinks that see your hand moving the glass towards your mouth for another sip without you even knowing it is happening. Connie Cain from Milk in Reading produced such a drink with her Hanky Swanky, including a peanut washed Yellow Chartreuse which was fantastic. This was combined with both 3 and 5 year old El Dorado’s, lime juice and a fruit and spice syrup (including strawberry, pineapple, cloves and star anise) for a moreish delight served up in awesome El Dorado tiki mugs.
So those two join our Scotland finalists and next week we will have the complete finalists list after the Manchester heat. Already looking to more great drinks up north.
Huge thanks to all the competitors and their supporters for such a great day as well as the Nine Lives crew, in particular Oscar. Also, as always, thanks to El Dorado and Cask Liquid Marketing for putting on such a great competition.
Tom Soden – Nine Lives, London
50ml El Dorado 3yr (coconut oil washed)
20ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
20ml guava juice
4 drops of Ms Betters Bitters Miraculous Foamer
2 dash Angostura Bitters
San Pellegrino top
Garnished with banana leaf, lemon twist and coconut macaron.
Connie Cain – Milk, Reading
40ml El Dorado 3yr
20ml El Dorado 5yr
15ml peanut fat washed Yellow Chartreuse
15ml fruit and spice syrup
15ml lime juice
barspoon muscovado sugar
2 dash angostura bitters
Garnish with dehydrated grapefruit slice and dried coconut.