We’ve judged more than our fair share of cool cocktail competitions over the past few months yet we haven’t had the decency to big-up the winners. How rude! Particularly as we’ve seen some extremely slick performances and better still, tasted more than our fair share of corking cocktails.

Here’s to the creativity and passion to all of the bartenders who took part in the following competitions, judging from their performances the future of cocktails is looking very bright indeed.

Angostura

We judged two regional heats of the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge 2014: one on a private pod onboard the London Eye during London Cocktail Week, the other in Sweden after a visit to the Abba museum.

London first: it was third time lucky for Máté Csatlós from The Kenilworth in Warwickshire. And his experience and determination showed. Talk about a smooth presentation, even the backdrop of a postcard-perfect London skyline couldn’t detract from Maté’s understated but very confident performance. That combined with his two stunning drinks secured his ticket to Trinidad for the finals in February next year. Both cocktails – one Classic to show off Angostura rum, the other a freestyle creation highlighting Angostura aromatic bitters – were bang-on.

Máté puts the finishing touches to his winning cocktails

We’re not being biased (okay, maybe just a little bit) but we think 2014 could well be the year the US $10,000 prize gets converted to UK pounds. Watch this space…

Il Conte

Angostura 1919
Rubis
Zucca Rubarbo
St. Elisabeth Pimiento Dram
Angostura aromatic bitters
Glass rinsed with Black Bottle Scotch Whisky
Garnish: orange peel and 70% dark chocolate

Madame Butterfly

Apricot Palinka
Plymouth Sloe Gin
Yuzu & Lemon juice
Grade B maple syrup
Angostura aromatic bitters

Meanwhile in Sweden we were able to see 12 bartenders from across Europe show off their very individual approaches. There was charm from Italy and good patter from Ireland, but it was the all round package from Greece that made the difference. Panagiotis Giovanis from the Venezia bar in Lamia went the extra mile on a number of fronts. His freestyle drink Scarlet Ibis contained not one but two homemade ingredients and looked extremely elegant in a vintage martini glass. And his Safe House drink in the rum category was based on a classic Old Fashioned and introduced the merest hint of smoke by spraying the glass with Ledaig single malt whisky. His bar skills were excellent and his presentation understated yet confident. Oh, and he finished up by igniting a burning Angostura logo. Yes, an extra mile or three.

Panagiotis Giovanis winner of European Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge

Panagiotis finishes with a flourish

Scarlet Ibis

Angostura aromatic bitters
Angostura 7 Year Old
Homemade walnut liqueur
Monin Creme de Peche liqueur
Fresh lime juice
Homemade spice syrup

Safe House

Angostura aromatic bitters
Angostura 1919
Remy Martin VSOP
Green Chartreuse
Homemade Vanilla-Nutmeg syrup
Glass sprayed with Ledaig

The Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge grand final takes place in Trinidad in February 2013.

Beefeater 24

Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge and Frederic Knüll in the German finals

Having 26 countries participating in the Beefeater 24 Global Finals in November means 26 countries need to be visited to choose the finalists. We went to two, Germany and Switzerland. The Frankfurt leg was impressive, that goes for the opulent venue Zenzakan, as well as the skills of the competitors. We didn’t get to sit in the judges seat for that one (huge congrats to Frederik Knüll who looked genuinely shocked to take the top prize). We did get to add our tuppence worth with the Swiss contestant though…

…and with Swiss finalist Nico Berger

Nico’s White Lady

The venue was Dante bar, definitely worth a visit if you’re in Zurich. Like all of the finals, the brief was to make two cocktails: one Classic using Beefeater London Dry, the other a Reinterpretation of said cocktail using Beefeater 24. Nico Berger wasn’t the only competitor to opt for the White Lady as his Classic Cocktail. However, his was perfectly judged, very elegant and simply garnished with two slices of air dried orange served on the side. For his Beefeater 24 Reinterpretation Berger offered up the London Japan, an aromatic combo of Beefeater 24,  coriander, elderflower, fresh lemon and sesame oil, garnished with a chilli and a whisper of coriander and served with a side of salmon sashimi and an aromatic dip. Yes, there were a lot of things going on both in and out of the glass but Nico’s ability to bring the flavours together in perfect harmony earned him the top prize.

The Beefeater 24 Global Bartender Competition final takes place in London on 7th November and we have a pair of tickets to give away. Sample the cocktails and vote for your favourite at this invitation-only event, simply email us with ‘I love Beefeater 24’ in the subject header. Please note: Entrants MUST be over 18 years old. Transport and accommodation will not be provided. The winner will be notified on Tuesday 5th November.

Grey Goose

What better way to spend a Monday morning than tasting seven variations on a classic Martini in an effort to determine the finest. Thanks to the inaugural Grey Goose Le Rendez-vous’ Cocktail Competition at The Gilbert Scott in London’s St Pancras Renaissance Hotel that’s exactly what we found ourselves doing as we sat along fellow judge Chris Moore, Head Bartender of the Beaufort Bar at The Savoy. The variations on the theme were outstanding but we could only send three contestants through to round two in the afternoon, and they were Nathan O’Neill, Milk & Honey, Rudi Carraro, Artesian Bar at The Langham Hotel and Walter Pintus, Rivoli Bar at The Ritz. The challenge now was to create a cocktail to pair with a dish from The Gilbert Scott’s very own two Michelin star chef Marcus Wareing. The dish in question being his Mulligatawny, a richly spiced curry floured soup. They were shown into a room full of ingredients and given just 30 minutes to come up with their cocktail. And just to make the proceedings themselves a little more spicy we were joined for this round by a third judge – Mr Marcus Wareing himself. No pressure then.

At this level the standard was exceptionally high with considered concoctions from all. Rudi used Amaro bitters and cardamom bitters in his Dish Of The Day cocktail to offset the sweetness of the soup. Walter utilised the citrus elements of lemons and Grey Goose L’Orange to refresh the palette along with Moroccan bitters for a long finish in his Grey Goose Cup. Nathan went big on tarragon in his Finesse cocktail, while adding the spicy undertones of vermouth to compliment the curry element of the soup. And it was Nathan who finally claimed the top spot thanks to his subtle sense of taste alongside a sensitive understanding of the nuances of the Grey Goose.

Nathan O'Neill pairs his cocktail with Mulligatawny soup

Nathan O’Neill pairs his cocktail with Mulligatawny soup

Two Sides to Every Story

Grey Goose vodka
Noilly Prat Dry
Cassis
Absinthe

Finesse

Grey Goose Citron
Noilly Prat Dry
Benedictine
Kummel
Lemon juice
Sugar
Tarragon

Peter F. Heering

Dale DeGroff and Michael Flannery

If you thought Singapore Slings only came in sweet, sweeter and über sweet varieties, the five finalists in the Peter F. Heering Sling Awards would have definitely changed your mind. After inviting guests at Berlin Convent Berlin to sample their modern interpretations of the famous cocktail invented by Ngiam Tong Boon at Raffles hotel in Singapore, the quintet – three from the US, one from Spain and one from the UK – mixed up their winning drinks for the last time at Le Croco Bleu in Berlin, one of the coolest new bars we’ve ever seen.

Philip Duff hosted the proceedings and a panel of judges including Dale DeGroff, Ulf Neuhaus, president of the German Bartender Union, Kirsten Holm of K-Bar, Copenhagen and Richard Broni, chief mixologist for Peter F. Heering, and us, deliberated, cogitated and digested the Sling-stars before awarding Michael Flannery of Apt 13 in USA the top prize. Little wonder really, the other drinks all deserved to be in the finals but Michael’s Highland Fling was blooming fantastic.

Highland Sling

Cherry Heering
Siete Leguas Blanco Tequila
Fresh pineapple juice
Fresh tangerine juice
Fresh lime juice
Benedictine
Green Chartreuse
Dale DeGroff Pimento Bitters
Mist Del Maguey Chicchicapa

 

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