So, we’ve had regional heats in Bristol, Oxford, London, Manchester and Edinburgh. We’ve racked up hundreds of miles of rail travel and we’ve sampled a mind-boggling amount of amazingly creative
cocktails. Which all brings us to the big day: The Chivas Masters UK Final. In the exclusive Punch Room at the London Edition hotel our eight bartenders set out to secure the top prize – a chance to
represent the UK at the Global Final in New York.
Having already demonstrated their considerable talents in their
respective regional heats our bartenders had to raise their game still higher. Once again their challenge was to reinterprete four Chivas cocktails, from the following eras: The Classic Age, The Post-War Boom, The Disco Years and The Age of Revivalism. The day saw us sampling a cigar-infused drink created with Winston Churchill in mind, Chivas mixed with Vimto and a cocktail served in a used crisp packet. Yes, this was a cocktail competition final to remember.
When: 3 June
Where: The Punch Room at The Edition Hotel, London
Who (Competitors): Franco Burnell, The Library, Bournemouth;
Jolene Cadwell, Papaji’s, Bristol; Will Cox, The Bon Vivant,
Edinburgh; Enrique Gomez, Sticks ‘N’ Sushi, London; Lee Hyde,
Oskar’s Bar at Dabbous, London; Jake Murphy, 81 LTD, Liverpool; Ali Reynolds, Hawksmoor, London; Jules Van Dyke, Voodoo Moon, Wrexham. (Judges): Max Warner, Chivas Global Brand Ambassador, Agostino Peronne, Director of Mixology at The Connaught Bar,
Johan Ekelund, Sharp and Dapper, and The Cocktail Lovers.
Getting things started was Enrique Gomez, Sticks ‘N’ Sushi, London. As in his qualifying heat he clearly enjoyed the experience of talking about all four of the cocktail periods and making the drinks to match. The stand out was his interpretation of The Disco Years, Mr Scott Humble Bramble (Chivas 12, pomegranate sauce, crème de mure, gomme and honey syrup). Inspired by Dick Bradsell’s Bramble
he included the crème de mure as an ingredient rather than floating it on top, but recreated the marbling effect in dramatic fashion with charcoal powder.
Lee Hyde from Oskar’s Bar at Dabbous, the second of the three
London finalists, stepped up next. For him it was all about telling a story. Taking the part of Frank Welles, legendary first
Head Bartender of The American Bar at The Savoy, for his cocktail for The Classic Age, the Chivas Martinez (Chivas 12, Cocchi
Torino, maraschino, orange curaçao, Campari and orange bitters) and donning a Miami Vice style jacket and loud shirt for The Disco Years with his Frisky On The Beach (Chivas 12, Midori, peach
bitters, guava and lemon juice).
Representing Scotland came Will Cox from The Bon Vivant,
Edinburgh. Running through all of Will’s drinks were home made
ingredients; bitters, syrups, even a Chivas reduction with which he misted his Bloody Battle (Chivas 12, Byrrh, lemon juice, tomato, blood orange, Lea & Perrins and Tabasco) for The Post-War Boom, the drink he created for the Rat Pack to drink after a big night out.
Alistair Reynolds, Hawksmoor, London was next. His understated style combined great Chivas knowledge with entertaining cocktail anecdotes. He also demonstrated an engaging humour, such as
miming the story of Dick Bradsell’s Vodka Espresso when his voice was drowned out by the blender he was using to create his version of the drink for The Disco Years, Coffee ‘n’ Smoke (Chivas 12 infused with coffee beans, Crema de Mezcal and clotted cream ice cream). His humour was obvious too in the drink that really caught the judges’ eyes – Whisky, Beer and Crisps (Chivas 12, Kernel IPA syrup, smoked sea salt and malt vinegar) for his Age of Revivalism drink. A great tasting cocktail – served in a used crisp packet.
Jolene Cadwell, from Papaji’s in Bristol, took us past the half way stage. When it came to Chivas she knew her subject and engagingly combined it with personal touches such as stories about her father and creating a cocktail with her brothers in mind, and their love of fizzy soft drinks, for her Disco Years drink, John, James and Adam (Chivas, blue curaçao, lemon juice, pineapple syrup and Vimto).
Next up was Franco Burnell from The Library in Bournemouth. Key to Franco’s drinks were their visual appeal; glitter balls for his Disco Years drink, Nailed On The Dancefloor (Chivas Regal 12 and
homemade honey liqueur) and subtle absinthe ‘air’ for The Age of Revivalism, A Gentleman Revived (Chivas 12, Martell VSOP,
dehydrated mint leaves, rapadura sugar, crystallised ginger and Pernod Tarragona Absinthe).
Bartender number seven was Jules Van Dyke from Voodoo Moon in Wrexham. He combined visual appeal with some intricate drinks, particularly in The Chancellor and the Bulldog for The Post-War Boom (Chivas, Tawny Port, Noilly Prat, chocolate bitters and
homemade Romeo Y Juileta cigar syrup). Created with Winston Churchill in mind it evoked the great man by infusing the smoke from a Romeo Y Juileta cigar into the cocktail.
Rounding up proceedings was Jake Murphy from 81LTD in
Liverpool. He delivered period and Chivas knowledge in equal
measure, hardly pausing for breath as he produced his four drinks. At just 20 years old he demonstrated a real passion for his craft and a good understanding of flavour, such as in his drink for The Classic Age, King Street (Chivas 12, homemade vanilla and absinthe gomme, orange zest, star anise and cinnamon stick) which subtly
underlined the spicy notes of the Chivas.
The winner and the judges reactions
To say the standard was high would be understatement in the
extreme. So let’s put it another way – we were blown away. The judges really had their work cut out but they all zoned in on the same first choice to take the title. Step forward Mr Alistair Reynolds from Hawksmoor.
Very creditable second and third places went to Jolene Cadwell,
Papaji’s, Bristol and Jules Van Dyke, Voodoo Moon, Wrexham,
As Agostino Peronne, Director of Mixology at The Connaught Bar, observed, “Everyone did a great job, I was impressed with every
single one of them from all over the UK. They were well prepared and did great presentations. And I was inspired.” As for the winner Agostino added, “It was a tight decision but Ali just had more variety in his four drinks”.
Johan Ekelund of Sharp and Dapper was also impressed with the day. “The creativity of the bartenders was incredible. To come up with different cocktails each is really hard and to make such an array of different drinks was mind-blowing. Ali had a very good technique, was comfortable behind the bar, had a cheeky style and basically his drinks were top of the class.”
Max Warner is Chivas Global Brand Ambassador and the man with plan behind The Chivas Masters Global competition. “What was nice for me today was to see that the bartenders had taken inspiration from what is happening around the world in cocktails and that they were getting really excited about revisiting these four big eras in cocktail history. At the beginning of the competition I wanted
someone who could demonstrate a classic style and playfulness,
especially in front of us as customers. Ali referenced the brand in the right way and he was engaging and entertaining. The bottom line of the competition is May The Best Bartender Win, and on the day he was the best bartender.
As for us, having sampled every single cocktail in every heat, as well as all of the drinks in the final, we agree with Mr Warner, Ali was
simply the best bartender. The hopes of the UK at The Chivas
Masters Global Final couldn’t be in better hands. Go Ali!
A word from the winner
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m absolutely delighted to have won and to now be representing the UK on the global stage. To come out on top is incredible. I can’t wait to see what New York has in store.”
Ali’s winning drinks
The Classic Age:
My Brother’s Peach Tea
35ml Earl Grey infused Chivas 12
20ml Cocchi Rose
15ml Crème de Peche
5ml Green Chartreuse
Stir all ingredients over ice and strain into a rocks glass with cubed ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Post War Boom
The Fig Dram Theory
60ml Chivas 12
25ml homemade apple cordial
15ml Crème de Figue
2 dashes Pernod Absinthe
10ml lime juice
Topped with Champagne
Swizzle all ingredients over crushed ice in a highball glass. Top with Champagne and garnish with flowers, mint, orange slice and a mini sword.
Coffee ‘n’ Smoke
50ml Chivas 12 infused with coffee beans
10ml Crema de Mezcal
1 scoop Clotted Cream ice cream
Blend all ingredients with two ice cubes and pour into a coupette.
Age of Revivalism
Whisky, Beer and Crisps
70ml Chivas 18
20ml Kernel IPA Syrup
Pinch of smoked sea salt
2 dashes of malt vinegar
Stir all ingredients into a crisp packet, re-seal and serve in a frozen beer mug with rocks glass of ice on the side.
81 LTD 81ltd.com
Oskar’s Bar at Dabbous dabbous.so.uk
Sticks ‘N’ Sushi sticksnsushi.com
The Bon Vivant bonvivantedinburgh.co.uk
The Library at the Larder House thelarderhouse.co.uk
Voodoo Moon voodoomoon.co.uk
The Edition Hotel edition-hotels.marriott.com
Photography: Thomas Skovsende