Above: Zander Miller plays beekeeper in the heats; below, Iain McPherson in mega MC mode

There are many things that Edinburgh does well. Kilts, castles and comedy fests are just a few. For the record, we’re adding one more to this list: cocktail competitions. Patron Perfectionists Scottish heats in particular.

Don’t get us wrong, the first two in Reading and Manchester were impressive but the bartenders of Scotland weren’t going to let the rest of the country get away without a fight. It seemed like all nine contestants had received the memo requesting them to turn up at Tonic, the venue for the day, with nothing less than brilliant drinks and first-class banter.

It certainly made our jobs as judges interesting (read difficult). Joining us in the comp ‘cro (fashion has it’s front row, so why not drinks?), were Patrón UK Ambassador Karine Tillard along with Jon Hughes from award-winning Bramble bar down the road.

Before we get on to the competitors can we just take a moment to big up our MC for the day, Iain McPherson, owner of Panda & Sons, another must-visit bar in Edinburgh? Armed with a megawatt personality and a megaphone (yes, a working megaphone complete with comedy effects to boot), he ensured the energy levels in the room never dipped below fun times. Iain we salute you.

Back to the job in hand, round three of the Patrón Perfectionists… It started strong and stayed that way, with competitors from Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness displaying considerable knowledge of Patrón, backed up with a bevy of well conceived drinks.

As with the previous heats, there were a few themes that ran through the day: in the ‘Pretty Drinks’ corner we had Max Gerber from The Social in Glasgow and local boy Zander Miller from G&V Royal Mile Hotel in Edinburgh. Max’s Sweet, Sweet Rosie, based on an Old Fashioned (Patrón Silver, kiwi and rose sugar syrup, with its pink colour coming from soaking the syrup in purple Skittles, aromatic bitters, garnished with a single rose petal), was described by its creator as a tequila drink to get the ladies making more original drinks choices.

Moving on, Zander created a pretty drink without referencing women drinkers at all (thank you Zander!). He also brought theatrics to the affair, dressed in full beekeepers garb and making his honey-based Zumbido (translates to The Buzz), cocktail (Patrón Silver, Scottish rhubarb juice, lime juice, rooftop honey and Lagavulin syrup, absinthe), along to a soundtrack of bees buzzing from his Blue Peter-esque homemade hive. His garnish took in a liberal shaving of honey cut freshly from the honeycomb frame. Not bad for a cocktail competition first timer… We’ll also include Andy Stewart from The Tippling House in Aberdeen in this category. His decidedly quaffable drink, Run Honey Run (Patrón Silver, cachaça, peated whisky, honey syrup, lemon juice, egg white and crumbled honeycomb garnish) was much more elegant than pretty but as we’re going for themes here, the honey nudges it into the sweeter end of the drinks spectrum.

Magic Mike McGinty preparing his The Voyage of the Buck

In direct contrast Mike McGinty from The Voyage of Buck in Edinburgh; Panos Dimou from The Anchor Line in Glasgow and Aiste Valiukas from the Hilton in Aberdeen brought Savoury to the party. Mike’s The Bell of Jalisco (Patrón Reposado, chamomile-infused dry vermouth, grapefruit IPA, lemon juice and yellow bell pepper and smoked sea salt shrub), was a light but complex drink created with the jimadors in mind. Panos zoned in on green peppers for his fresh and fragrant cocktail, Homesick (Patrón Reposado, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, homemade green pepper syrup, basil leaves and salt and freshly ground pepper on the rim of the glass – in a Margarita stylee). Aiste went for something equally well conceived but purposely simpler with her delicious culinary style Planter’s Silver (Patrón Silver, charred corn and fresh kaffir lime leaf syrup), served alongside a bowl charred baby corn.

Top marks to David Robinson who gave an ace presentation…

Then there was Wine, first from David Robinson representing The Hillhead Bookclub in Glasgow, and again from Elias Olaria from Rye & Soda in Aberdeen. David’s presentation was outstanding, taking in expert brand knowledge without being boring, explaining the rationale behind his drink with seasoned professionalism and all the while keeping things light and engaging. His cocktail, Into The Unknown (Patrón Reposado, cinnamon stick, oak-smoked paprika, crushed rock salt, cooked Vincotto reduction and Cynar), served in a earthenware bowl on an oak dish with dehydrated grapefruit and oak smoke was equally dramatic. Elias’s Sympathy For The Devil (Patrón Reposado, ginger and city hop shrub, citric acid, bramble wine), based on the Rolling Stones song (a tribute to the tahona stone used in the Patrón Tequila making process) was a mix of the tradition (tahona method) and innovation (the addition of citric acid) that goes into the making of every bottle of Patrón.

…and to Zander Miller who somehow managed to make his drink in a full beekeeper’s outfit

Marius Plucinski from Bar One in Inverness was on his own in the Molecular camp with his Salida del sol (Patrón Añejo, cactus liqueur, blood orange liqueur, citrus bitters, grapefruit juice, lime juice and soy lecithin). There was foam, there were layers, there were starfish and there was a spherical ice ball, all brought together to create his Spanish sunrise.

Then it was over, leaving the judges to fight it out. This was without doubt the hardest heat to declare an overall winner, with the battle for first to third changing several times during the deliberation process. In the end though it was Mike McGinty who got the top spot for his drink, narrowly beating David Robinson, who won for his presentation. Just to make things clear, David’s drink was amazing too, but perhaps a tad too much wine masked the taste of the tequila. Equally, Mike’s presentation was good, while his drink got the tequila: yellow bell pepper shrub/grapefruit IPA ratio just right. When you’re dealing with talent of this level, every little detail counts.

The winner, Mike McGinty

Mike is the third competitor going through to the Patrón Perfectionists final on 16th November. Who will be joining him? Find out in the two London heats on 12th and 13th September.

The Voyage of The Buck

30ml Patrón Reposado
12.5ml chamomile infused dry vermouth
25ml Grapefruit IPA
20ml lemon juice
20ml yellow bell pepper shrub

Method:
Shake all ingredients and double strain into a stemmed glass over ice. Garnish with dehydrated lime, chamomile flowers and yellow pepper leather.

Follow all the action on #PatronPerfectionists. Next stop: London, 12th & 13th September

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