Pepsi Max Cocktail Competition Sends Bartender To Ibiza Rocks

During London Cocktail Week Pepsi Max held the final of their cocktail competition, with four competitors vying for the trip to Ibiza.

Bartenders across the UK were asked to come up with 2 separate serves to enter themselves into the competition. The first was a twist on the classic Cuba Libre incorporating Pepsi Max and second their own original creation, the only caveat being it had to contain a brand from the extensive Britvic range.

Salvatore, Jack, Eloise & Amber
Salvatore, Jack, Eloise & Amber

After working through all of the recipes that were entered, the final four consisted of:

  • Jack Docherty, Alston Bar & Beef, Glasgow
  • Eloise Stevenson, Lost Property, Nottingham
  • Amber Blood, London Cocktail Club, London
  • Salvatore Cipolla, BYOC East, London

Our intrepid foursome arrived at the The Max Lounge at Old Spitalfields Market to make their two serves and entertain the judging panel of BarLifeUK, industry stalwart Tim Homewood, and Pepsi brand ambassador Sarah De La Mare.

After a quick briefing came some much needed lunch (for those not too nervous to eat) and a chance to familiarise themselves with the bar. Suitably prepared, the competitors were ready to impress, and impress they did.

Jack kicked off proceedings with his Bitter End original Negroni twist, his slight nerves at being involved in his first competition were soon forgotten as he got into his stride. It was however his Cuba Libre twist that captured the imagination, bringing a wintery twist to the classic, with spiced rum and Spanish bitters working particularly well with the Pepsi Max, it got us thinking about seasonal twists on such a simple classic.

Next up was Eloise who produced a first for us in a competition with the inclusion of Purdey’s which was combined with gin and hibiscus and presented beautifully. Once again it was the Cuba Libre twist that stood out, this time coconut rum and strawberry creating a drink that may have been a little to sweet for our bitter old pallet but no doubt would be a huge hit with a lot of customers.

Salvatore's serves
Salvatore’s serves

Salvatore had put in a lot of effort to his serves with custom designed vessels really adding to his presentations. He relied on a lot more than presentation tricks however with his Cuba Libre twist incorporating a lime marmalade and vanilla smoke which brought out some of the key flavours in the Pepsi Max.

Then Amber exploded onto the bar full of boundless energy. Her two drinks were very different but both extremely well thought through. Her original serve, the Ginga Ninja, invented when she was feeling a bit under the weather, included a ginger ale reduction, lemon, rum, vodka and topped with more Britvic ginger ale. We certainly felt better after having a few sips.

Amber’s Cuba Libre twist leaned towards her love of Pepsi’s Cherry flavour, combining Cherry Heering and rum with Pepsi Max all garnished with a cherry flavoured Chupa Chup…. of course.

In the end it was the flavours that won the day for Amber, all pulled together by her enthusiasm and thought process behind the drinks. The judges were unanimous in picking her as the winner, and if her celebration on hearing her name called is anything to go by I’d say she is certainly going to enjoy her time in Ibiza.

It was great to see four young bartenders with so much passion and enthusiasm for the industry competing and we have no doubt we will be seeing them all in many more competitions.

Big thanks to all four for their time and efforts as well as the many, many more who didn’t make it through. Also thanks to Britvic and Pepsi Max for coming up with such an original idea for a competition and giving these bartenders a chance to shine.

Amber and her winning serves
Amber and her winning serves

Winning Drinks
Amber Blood, London Cocktail Club

She’s My Cherry Pie

  • 25ml Bacardi Carta Negra
  • 25ml Cherry Heering
  • 25ml Lime juice
  • 10ml Vanilla sugar syrup
  • 100ml Pepsi Max
  • 3 Dashes chocolate bitters

 Built in a highball over cubed ice, garnished with a lime wedge, mint, cherry Chupa Chup and a paper straw 

Ginger Ninja

  • 22.5ml Goslings Black Seal
  • 22.5ml Finlandia
  • 7.5ml Wray and Nephew
  • 25ml Britvic ginger ale + 25ml simple syrup (Boiled to a reduction)
  • 20ml Lemon juice
  • Top Britvic ginger ale

Built in highball glass, garnished with a lemon wedge and mint sprig​