Last week bartenders gathered at Disrepute, London to battle it out for three trips to Jerez and ultimately three tickets to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.
In southern Spain sits a small city called Jerez. Jerez is one of the most picturesque, tranquil, and serene places on the planet. Every turn in the centre of town provides a picture postcard image the surrounding landscape stretches out like a watercolour. New Orleans…. well it isn’t those things. In fact the closest they got was a 3 month residency at Maison Bourbon by Tranquil Slacks and the Banjo Landscapes in 1992.
However this year the two places are being brought a little closer together thanks to the folks at Ysabel Regina. In their first ever international cocktail competition Ysabel Regina, produced in Jerez, have put up three tickets to this years Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.
For bartenders this is one of the most desired prizes on the cocktail comp scene so it was no surprise that the entries piled in and we had a highly talented group gathered at Disrepute to find the three who would be representing the UK at the global final in Jerez next week.
There are few things more important to the atmosphere in a cocktail bar than music. Get the levels wrong, the playlist off, mis-judge your audience or the time of day, any one of these things can ruin an experience in a bar quicker than yellow ice in your drink.
Ysabel Regina decided to celebrate their long standing relationship with music and integrate it into their cocktail competition. Bartenders were encouraged to pick a song that they love or means something to them, and use that as inspiration for their Ysabel Regina serve.
Tapping into bartenders musical minds provided a fantastic and unusual competition with a soundtrack that will going onto my walkman, as soon as I buy some more blank tapes. BarLifeUK were on hand to help judge the UK final, alongside Juan Carlos Maroto, from Ysabel Regina owners Vantguard and Martina Breznanova from The Gibson.
The bartenders were competing in one of three categories:
Throwing matched with Jazz Blues music
Infusing matched with Jazz Rock music
Long Drink matched with Jazz Pop music
Each of these categories would provide a winner who would be off to Jerez. There they will battle it out with winners in their category from Switzerland, Spain, Italy & Portugal to win one of three trips to Tales.
There were many great drinks, presentations and songs during the afternoon and here are a few of our favourites:
Charles Mingus, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat – Kicking off with such a classic blues track Dardan Hoti from the Blue Bar set the tone in perfect style. Inspired by the song, an ode to a dead musician, Dardan focused his presentation on emotion and ended with an excellent Negroni style serve.
Muddy Waters, Mannish Boy – Another classic blues track that had the whole bar quietly singing throughout was tee’d up by Edinburgh’s Martim Baeta. Their twist on a Coffee Cocktail not only tasted great but was backed up with an excellent presentation linking Ysabel Regina to the music.
The Who, The Acid Queen – Stepping up a gear saw Giacomo Apolloni from Looking Glass CC draw from Rock Opera Tommy. Giacomo took the brave move to infuse in front of the judges (with a 5 minute time limit) but the result was a fantastic citrus based Ysabel Regina liquid which worked very well in the resulting drink.
Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, I Won’t Dance – Angel De Sousa loves to dance and according to his drink he also likes keeping warm on cold nights. His warm serve featuring an apple cider reduction would be the perfect drink on Bonfire Night.
Stick McGhee, Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee – Now that is how you name a song (and yourself for that matter), Mike Bryant from 1812 in Bournemouth dug out this corker of a track and produced a twist on two New Orleans classics, the Sazerac and Vieux Carre, to excellent effect.
It was a tough call but the judges had to pick the top three who get to play on the big stage in Jerez next week.
Eric Clapton, Layla – The version of Clapton’s classic, picked by Toby Heap from the Edgbaston in Birmingham, may have been unplugged but his presentation was anything but. Music, storytelling and bartending were linked with love, passion and obsession all whilst producing a long serve packed full of flavour. The sauterne, apricot liqueur and sherry vinegar all married fantastically with the Ysabel Regina.
Irving Berlin, Putting On The Ritz – Tiago Mira from The Ritz’s Rivoli Bar is a suave guy. Therefore it came as no surprise that he managed to turn the throwing element of his presentation into a form of dance along to his music (it looked like a backdrop in a Fred Astaire musical). None of this took his attention away from the drink, a beautifully presented serve featuring a Japanese peach & sesame seed shrub.
Led Zeppelin, Whola Lotta Love – Classic rock doesn’t get more classic than Led Zeppelin and Chris Menning from Gravetye Manor gave the crowd a treat with not only his choice of song but the drink he produced. Chris expertly balanced Ysabel Regina, Dubonnet, chestnut liqueur, PX sherry, chocolate and thyme in a drink that I could have happily sat back and drunk all to myself, if it wasn’t for the other pesky judges wanting to try it.
So there we have our chart toppers. The question is how many of them will make it to New Orleans?
BarLifeUK will be hitting the road (imagine Almost Famous) on Tuesday with the finalists and heading to Jerez so we can bring you all the news as it happens.
We will also be putting together the full days playlist and putting it up on Spotify with the name Ysabel Regina UK Heat very soon.