The Bartenders Trove competition has been an original concept since it’s launch and the final was certainly no different.
At the end of last year Maker’s Mark asked bartenders to tell them about their favourite piece of rare or precious bar equipment from which the best pieces were selected to form an exhibitionin central London. Alongside this they also asked for cocktail recipes featuring the bar equipment, a special liquid ingredient and Maker’s Mark.
At a special industry launch of the exhibition the final four were chosen and announced based on not only their original Maker’s Mark cocktail but also the story behind their object and the object itself. Those four had to compete at a final in London to win a trip to Maker’s home of Loretto, Kentucky, which is where we pick up the story.
The characters in this story were:
Michal Buben formerly of NinetyEight Bar, London
Rusty Cerven from The Connaught, London
Tim Pryde from Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
Chris Lacey from Rules, London
The setting was MASH Bar in the heart of Soho, hosted by the always generous Troels Knudsen. However on arriving, like a blindfolded groom on the night before his impending nuptials, those involved had no idea what was going to happen.
Luckily Amanda Humphrey from Mixxit was on hand to guide the final four on the days activity. A myriad of film cameras surround the group as Amanda revealed the days adventures.
They had £80 and one hour to disappear into the humming streets of Soho, Chinatown and wherever else they could get to and buy ingredients to combine with Maker’s Mark to create a new cocktail.
All of a sudden it was, quite literally, lights, camera, action and they were off. Each finalist was accompanied by a camera person and a handler (to ensure no funny business) and suddenly the judges, consisting of BarLifeUK, Amanda, Rebecca Tinson of Maxxium UK and Imbibe’s Clinton Cawood, were all alone. Well almost, we did have Troels and his Maker’s cocktails to keep us company.
An hour or so later the finalists returned and it was immediately apparent that you can buy a whole lotta stuff in the belly of London for £80. Bags of bottles, juices, herbs and spices, props and the biggest cinnamon sticks we have ever seen emerged.
It was soon obvious that if you ever find yourself in London on the day of a cocktail comp and some little scamp half inches your bag full of ingredients head to Chinatown. They have it all, in bulk, for not very much.
Tim was up first and seeing as his heat drink and special object both had their feet firmly in the East it was no surprise he found himself so at home in Chinatown. His special object was a ceramic Shisa cup from Japan and once again this formed the centrepiece for his final creation.
The Maker’s was paired with a Japanese liqueur called Umeshu made from the ume plant (which didn’t help our understanding a great deal as we’d never heard of ume) but for the record it is somewhere between a plum and an apricot, and delicious. He also managed to find time to knock up a Hibiscus Blossom Cordial.
During his presentation the entire judging panel learnt a lot from Tim about customs from the East which kept us highly entertained.
Following Tim was Rusty who had obviously had a lot of fun on his shopping spree. It didn’t take Agatha Christie to figure out his plan when he pulled out a beautiful antique Tom & Jerry punch bowl and mugs to set up alongside his special object, a Russian samovar. For those not familiar with a samovar, it’s a metal container used to heat liquids, think big ornate metal teapot.
So a twist on a Tom & Jerry it was. What happened next was a highly entertaining presentation with one of the funniest attempts at an accent we’ve ever heard. The drink was a whole lot more polished than the accent, luckily.
The Maker’s was combined with beaten quails eggs and, in a nod to his roots, Becherovka whilst spiced almond milk was heated in the samovar. These were combined before a grating from the giant cinnamon stick. The end result was a great punch with the Becherovka adding a fantastic new level of flavour.
Chris was next up, however his time pounding the streets hadn’t gone quite as smoothly. His plan to head to the antique market at Covent Garden to pick up some serving vessels was scuppered by the fact it was ‘tacky tourist crap’ day at the market. Luckily he had his 1950’s Martini Spike at hand.
He recovered quickly though and went to the bartenders home from home in Soho, Gerry’s Wine & Spirits to pick up Byrhh Grand Quinquina and Cynar. It was at this point he produced his secret weapons, a bottle of hickory liquid smoke for the drink and some homemade pulled pork rolls – genius.
We have judged Chris in numerous competitions over the last few years and he has never served up anything other than a superb drink, a feat he managed yet again. As for the hours he’d spent the night before making the pulled pork….we salute you.
Last up was Michal who had also had a ball in the town of china. Not only had he bought the ingredients for his cocktail but also some superb green tea cookies to present on the side of his tea cup serve.
The drink included kumquats, Yuzu and Lapsang Souchong tea along with the Maker’s all measured out with his rather fancy Reed & Barton sterling silver jigger. As soon as we sipped the drink all the judges knew it was going to be a tricky job deciding on the winner as each of the finalists had done a superb job and produced great drinks in a unfamiliar competition format.
There was a trip to Kentucky up for grabs so the judges didn’t take the decision making process lightly but in the end we all agreed on the winner. Tim Pryde reigned supreme with not only a superb drink showcasing his prized piece of kit but also a superb presentation which gave him an edge.
Well done to all the guy’s who made it a fantastic afternoon as well as Troel’s and his team at MASH for looking after us. Of course also Maker’s Mark and Amanda for putting such a great twist on the cocktail competition and putting together such a great programme over the last few months with the Bartender Trove.
Tim’s winning drink:
60ml Maker’s Mark
90ml Hibiscus Blossom Cordial*
Build in a Shisa over rocks ice. Top with more ice and sparkling mineral water. Garnish with a pink rose
*Hibiscus Blossom Cordial
400ml Hibiscus tea (infuse dry tea in twice as much water for 1 hour)