“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Well, that’s what Laozi said in China 2,500 years ago and he was a philosopher so he probably knew what he was talking about. Fast forward to the present day and a lot of very talented bartenders around the world are taking a first step of their own which they hope will be the one that starts them on their journey to the Chivas Masters Global Final in Shanghai. Last week it was in Bristol that 11 bartenders set off.

When: 14 March.
Where: Hyde & Co, Bristol.
Who (competitors): Chelsie Bailey, Red Light; Dan Bovey, Be At One, Bristol; Rose Brookman, Ameoba; Lee Champion, Tiger Milk; Clem Eastel, Dark Horse; Jenny Griffiths, 10 Mill Lane; Thomas Johanna, 10 Mill Lane; Sam Kershaw, Dark Horse; Will Price, Gold Brick House; Charlie Thomas, Ameoba, and Isaac Windsor, Milk Thistle.
Who (judges): Josh Reynolds, Chivas Masters Global Winner 2015, Phil Huckle, Chivas Brand Ambassador and The Cocktail Lovers.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The Bristol Journey

To win The Chivas Masters Cocktail Competition a bartender will have to prove that he or she is exceptional. That’s why the challenge throughout the heats is to create not just one, but three exceptional cocktails with Chivas 12 Year Old. The first, The Classic Way, is all about taking a cocktail that has its origins in New York and then expressing it in a new way. The Local Way is where the bartenders bring something from their region into the mix, be it an ingredient or a story. Finally, comes The Shanghai Way where the cocktail needs to take inspiration from China’s biggest city and home to the Chivas Masters Global Final in May.

Over the course of five or so hours we heard stories, witnessed great techniques and tasted some outstanding drinks. Sam Kershaw from Dark Horse took inspiration from the Rusty Nail to create his 21 Gun Salute, a particularly complex mixing of Chivas, sweet orange sherry, lavender honey and Ciociaro amaro. Isaac Windsor from Milk Thistle provided a delicious drink with his deftly thrown Open Door Cocktail, a mix of Chivas, toasted green tea syrup and soy sauce. And Lee Champion from 11th & Hudson produced one of the stand-out drinks of the day for all the judges with Drink No Evil for The Shanghai Way where he elegantly combined the Chivas with sake and lychee syrup which was warmed and served in a traditional wooden cup.

With 11 bartenders producing a total of 33 drinks between them it wasn’t surprising there were some excellent creations. But this competition is called the Chivas Masters for a reason, someone had to nail all three drinks. That person was Chelsie Bailey (above) from Red Light. Playfully she took the name Chivas to link her three creations together; Classic Homage, Intriguing Ventures and Aspire to Shanghai. The Classic Homage was a powerful but very easy drinking take on an Old Fashioned, the Chivas combining smoothly with Harvey’s Bristol Cream and Averna. During the making of her second drink, Intriguing Ventures, she told us about her own bartending journey including the experiments that worked and the ones that didn’t. This one did, however, producing a drink lengthened with a little local cider. Completing her trio was Aspire to Shanghai a beautifully balanced mix of Chivas, tea and peach shrub.

Classic Homage, Intriguing ventures and Aspire to Shanghai

l-r Classic Homage, Intriguing Ventures and Aspire to Shanghai

Wise words: the judges

“The standard was good. It’s a big competition and maybe the nerves crept in slightly for a few of the competitors, however, Chelsie had a nice story, some on point history and her three drinks stood out amongst the rest.” Josh Reynolds, Chivas Masters Global Winner 2015.

“The third annual Chivas Masters got off to a very strong start in Bristol. I was very impressed with the overall standard. This is an elite competition which requires a lot of preparation and thought and all eleven entrants did a fantastic job. The format this year is very different, especially with the inclusion of the Shanghai inspired cocktail and I’m looking forward to what the UK bartenders are going to come up with.” Phil Huckle, Chivas Brand Ambassador.

“As for us it was all about the some of the parts. Many of the competitors produced a stand-out drink but Chelsie delivered an exceptional consistency across all three of her creations and that’s what tipped it in her favour.” The Cocktail Lovers.

Wise words: the winner

“My drinks represented where I’ve been as a bartender and where I want to go in the future. The first one was about the classics I learned when when I first started. The second represented me finding my own style. The third is about me becoming more innovative. Being in the final is intimating but exciting!” Chelsie Bailey, Chivas Masters Bristol heat winner.

The Chivas Masters journey

The Chivas Master heats run throughout March and April, leading up to the final in May.

Follow the journey on thecocktaillovers.com, via TwitterInstagram and on Facebook.

Chivas Twitter Chivas Instagram

#Chivasmasters #WISPA

Next step

Hawksmoor Spitalfields, 21 March.

Chelsie’s winning drinks

The Classic Way

Classic Homage

50ml Chivas 12
20ml Harvey’s Bristol Cream
15ml Averna
1 bar spoon sugar syrup
2 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters

Stirred and served up with orange zest

The Local Way

Intriguing Ventures

50ml Chivas 12
25ml cider brandy an honey syrup
10ml fino sherry
2 dashes citric acid
2 dashes peach bitters

Stirred over ice and served on the rocks with dehydrated apple and nutmeg garnish.

The Shanghai Way

Aspire to Shanghai

50ml Chivas 12
25ml Earl Grey & peach shrub
12.5ml lemon
10ml sugar syrup
top ginger ale

Shake with ice, pour into a tall glass, top ginger ale and garnish with a lemon wedge and a mint sprig.

Contestant bars:

10 Mill Lane tenmilllane.com

Ameoba amoebaclifton.co.uk

Be At One Bristol beatone.co.uk/cocktail-bar/bristol

Dark Horse darkhorsebar.co.uk

Gold Brick House goldbrickhouse.co.uk

Milk Thistle milkthistlebristol.com

Red Light redlightbristol.xxx

Tiger Milk tigermilkbars.com

The Chivas Masters Cocktail Competition

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